Rev. Willie C. Whiting goes home
BY DEXTER MCCREE, Feature Writer
ST. PETERSBURG — For more than three decades, Willie Whiting impacted the lives of all walks of people in St. Pete. His influence crossed age, racial, socioeconomic and gender lines. Whiting made time to help whomever he could.
The youth at recreation centers loved him, and their parents respected him. His work supervisors trusted him, and the church family honored him. He was and all-around good guy.
On Thursday, Aug. 22, Whiting, 69, bid farewell to those he impacted when he took his final breath.
Born in Largo on Dec. 11, 1949, to Willie B. Whiting and Emma Johnson, he graduated from Gibbs High School in 1967. Known as “Tubs,” he was a longtime member of Mt. Zion Progressive Missionary Baptist Church where he served as a youth minister.
Whiting joined the U.S. Marine Corp May 29, 1967, as a rifleman. He earned a National Defense Service Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, rifle sharpshooter badge, Vietnamese service medal, Vietnamese campaign medal with device and Good Conduct Medal.
There were lessons that he learned and lived by.
“One thing my dad taught me is how to be a real man,” said Raffaell Whiting. He remembers his father often saying: “If it ain’t right, then it ain’t real and more than anything always know God’s got it.”
Whiting learned hard work and serving others in the community at a young age. In 1964, he was a teenager learning the funeral business. He began by cutting the yard, digging graves and washing cars at McRae Funeral Home until he left for the Marine Corps.
When he returned from the military, he rejoined McRae, where he assisted in serving and comforting families. When the Lawson family, who also worked at McRae’s, opened Lawson Funeral Home in 2009, Whiting joined Ted Lawson, his lifelong friend until Whiting retired in May.
As a young adult, one of Whiting’s concerns, according to Thomas “Jet” Jackson, a lifelong friend and former co-worker, was the mischievous youth in the neighborhood. Jumping into action, he started work with the City of St. Petersburg Parks and Recreation Department in the early 1970s.
He worked at 5th Avenue Playground, Bartlett Park, now known as Frank W. Pierce Recreation Center and Childs Park Recreation Center, retiring from the city in 2005.
For the greater part of Whiting’s life, he held down multiple jobs. In 1977, he started work for the Department of Juvenile Justice, Pinellas County Juvenile Detention Center. For more than 35 years, he guarded some of the same students that he coached at Bartlett and Childs Park Recreation Centers. In January 2012, he retired as night shift lieutenant.
“I don’t know how he was able to maintain that pace, but his faith was important to him. I grew up on those jobs with him. People knew me because of him. My dad was my best friend,” said Monee Vongsalat, his youngest daughter, who resides in Alabama.
Like most things in Whiting’s life, when he committed to serving God and attending church, he didn’t waver on his word. He was a member of Mt. Zion Progressive for 25 years, serving under current Pastor Louis Murphy and previous Pastor Wilkins Garrett, Jr.
During his time, he served as an associate pastor and youth pastor. He was instrumental in the growth of the children’s ministry and continued to mentor and teach children and youth until his health failed.
When then-Rev. Garrett sought to expand the ministries, one of his primary focuses was to grow the youth and children’s ministry. He called on Whiting because he had experience developing youth and had a heart for children.
Whiting initiated the children ministry growth by starting an AWANA program. Awana is a worldwide non-profit ministry that focuses on providing bible base evangelism and discipleship solutions for ages 2 to 18. AWANA gives children the opportunity to know love and serve Jesus, no matter their background.
Jaron DeVon is one of the former students in Rev. Whiting’s youth ministry who is now married with two children of his own and serving in the United States Navy. He wrote, “Elders are so important to our growth. Rev. Tubs, thank you for all the life lessons you taught me at a young age. I will never forget them or you.”
It is great to know that no matter what happens on earth or what things we might need, God got it!
Whiting is survived by his children Katrina Thomas (Port Tobacco Village, Md.), Cleopatra Antoine (Tampa), Raffaell Whiting, Julian Whiting, Monee Vongsalat and stepson Jamie Howard.
Funeral services for Rev. Willie C. Whiting will be held on Saturday, Aug. 31 at 11 a.m. at Mt. Zion Progressive Missionary Baptist Church, 955 20th St. S, St. Petersburg. A viewing only will be held Friday in Mt. Zion’s Youth Chapel, 921 20th St. S from 6-8 p.m.
To reach Dexter McCree, email firstname.lastname@example.org