Gilbert Loveland Whitney
March 7, 1929 – March 27, 2018
Gilbert Whitney of Ann Arbor, born March 7th 1929 to Marguerite and Horace Whitney, arrived with a snow storm that required his parents to get their car towed by a horse team to the nearest plowed road in order to get to the hospital. He was brought home to the Webster Township farm where he gracefully finished his life on March 26th, 2018.
For most of Gil’s life he worked on the farm, first with his father, later with his children, and in the final years, though he had given up the physical side of the work, as a highly interested partner with his granddaughter and her husband.
He took two extended breaks from life on the farm. He attended Michigan State University where he obtained a degree in Agriculture, graduating with honors in 1950. During this time he would hitchhike home on weekends to help with farm work. From 1951 to 1955, he put the degree to work as a missionary in Mozambique where he was an agricultural maintenance and construction supervisor on the mission farm.
During the training for the mission work, he met Kathryn Miranda, also headed for Mozambique. At the end of their term they were married in Mozambique (a religious celebration) and in Johannesburg, South Africa, (the legal wedding). In 1967 Gil wrote, ”Married 13 years and still hopelessly in love. If this curve continues then we can’t wait to grow older.” For the majority of their married life they had a standing Friday night date, and celebrated both anniversary days until Kathy’s death in 2015. They began married life on the Whitney farm where they started a family and Gil resumed work with his father, taking over the farm completely when his father died. Besides working as a dairy farmer, Gil was active in the Webster United Church of Christ where he served in many capacities, including a year as Interim Minister starting in 1978. He also filled in for absent pastors at other congregations, and he and Kathy gave presentations on their experiences in Mozambique. He was active in Interfaith Council for Peace, Farm Bureau, and various agricultural organizations.
In the late 1970’s he gave up full time farming and went to work as a machine builder at L&L Engineering, a job he enjoyed. It contained the creativity and mechanical ability that had marked his career as a farmer, without having to worry if the cows might get out. He retired in 1996 and he and Kathy took a series of trips, mostly in the United States, with one to Tanzania to meet up with their son, John, and daughter-in-law, Donna, who were ending their time in the Peace Corp. This was the closest they ever got to going back to Mozambique. However, their love of Mozambique was always evident whenever they showed slides or told stories about their time there.
He was deeply interested in other people and helped them feel at home, whether they were from another town or another country. He and Kathy welcomed many people into their home and family over the years. He is survived by a vast community of family and friends, including his children: Lynne (Merri), Lyle (Carol), John (Donna), and Nancy; grandchildren: Sophia (Matt), Violet (Nick), Stephen (Molly), Malaika (Matthew), Eben, Jennifer, and Tony; great-granddaughter Leila, and many nieces, nephews, and cousins.
The world was a better place for his presence.
Friends may share condolences and memories at his online guestbook.
- the late Kathryn Whitney, Wife
- Lynne Whitney, Daughter
- Merri Rose, Daughter-in-law
- Lyle Whitney, Son
- Carol Whitney, Daughter-in-law
- John Whitney, Son
- Donna Whitney, Daughter-in-law
- Nancy Whitney, Daughter
- Sophia (Matt), Granddaughter
- Violet (Nick), Granddaughter
- Stephen (Molly), Grandson
- Malaika (Matthew), Granddaughter
- Eben Whitney, Grandson
- Jennifer Whitney, Granddaughter
- Tony Whitney, Grandson
- Leila Holston, Great Granddaughter
- Webster United Church of Christ
- Memorial Visitation Friday - April 6 Friday, April 6, 2018
- Memorial Visitation Saturday - April 7 Saturday, April 7, 2018
- Memorial Service - Saturday April 7 Saturday, April 7, 2018
Gilbert Loveland Whitney
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April 15, 2018
I grew up under the watchful eye of Gil and Kathy- always felt the family WAS my family. I had my favorite Aunt and Uncle and cousins Lynn, Lyle, John and Nancy.
I learned moore about farming, food, agriculture community and hospitality from this family than anywhere else in my life. I learned about the larger world around me with heartfelt tales of their missions, and always dreamed of travel to far off places, as a result of their passion.
Gil Whitney- his parents, family, and wonderful wife helped shape all of the things I am most proud of in my own existence; charity, acceptance, inclusion and humble hospitality.
All my love-
April 10, 2018
Gil Whitney and his wife Kathy changed the trajectory and the very substance of my life. Mr Whitney continues to inspire so many to become genuine servants of God and others.
April 10, 2018
My condolences to the Whitney family and the Webster Church Community.
I have many fond memories of Mr. Whitney. I played on his farm as a young child, adventuring through amazing tunnels built into the stacks of hay in the barn. I remember the cinder-block pool and buckets attached to trees collecting Maple sap for syrup. I remember art and artifacts from Africa that fascinated me. I shot part of a student film there whilst in college.
Most of my memories of Mr. Whitney, however, are around Webster Church activities. Of course I recall many times when he hopped off the bench and onto the pulpit when the usual ministers were away. He was such a kind, gentle and thoughtful man. A true giant of the Webster Community.
Oddly, I have this very distinct, very clear memory with him from when I was probably around nine or ten years old -- it was at the annual "Hanging of the Greens" Christmas event at Webster Church. It's a magical time of year when you're ten years old. Mr. Whitney was helping me hang evergreen branches along the outside of the church balcony, the part that sits above all the pews on the ground floor. He wanted me to be extra careful and not fall but he wasn't afraid to let me do it. He gently held my shoulder as we both leaned faaaaaaar over the edge as he demonstrated the best hanging-while-not-falling technique. He then let me do it all by myself. It was a sweetly parental moment. It takes a village, right Mr. Whitney? That is the "snapshot" I will most remember him by in my mind's eye. It's a comforting and clear childhood memory.
Onward, Mr. Whitney. Thank you.
April 5, 2018
I was so fortunate to get to know Gil and Kathy through the Webster community. He was always welcoming, interested in others and eager to share his wealth of experiences and expertise. Whether it was gathering maple syrup or farm or work stories, Gil was an treasured elder guide for joyous living and family/community spirit. His spirit and grace will live on for a long time to come. Peter Dooley
Patricia (Trish) Miller
April 2, 2018
I was privileged to play and work (it all seemed like play) around the farm when I was growing up. I will always be grateful to Kathy and Gil for the experiences they allowed me to share with Lynne, Lyle, John and Nancy. It was a healthy, welcoming environment then and remains so to this day. Rest in peace Mr. Whitney. Thank you for your positive influence on my youth along with your other examples of a life well lived.
March 31, 2018
I have such fond memories of times on the farm and time spent with my family. I always looked forward to those trips. In later years, Gil and Kathy would visit mom and the rest of us here in Destin. Mom treasured these times and was blessed by them in so many ways. Uncle Gil left behind a loving, kind and generous footprint in our lives and hearts. Now he watches from heaven above!
March 30, 2018
My fondest memories of Michigan are Webster Twp., Webster Church and the Whitney clan. In my mind they're all pretty much inseparable. Gil and Kathy were the parents, grand-parents and people everyone wishes they were!
March 30, 2018
I was one of those he opened his home to, I was young but remember fondly climbing in the hay and playing with the Kittens. I know my mother, Jean, loved Gil and I hope they are together again.