Photo by George Lauby
Services will be held at 2 p.m. Monday for former North Platte Mayor and lifetime community booster Jim Whitaker, who died Wednesday at home after a long battle with cancer.Whitaker, 80, was surrounded by his loved ones when he passed away.
Memorial services will be at the First United Methodist Church with Rev. Dr. Douglas Delp officiating. A reception will follow at the church.
Visitation is from noon until 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The family will receive friends from 4-6 p.m. on Sunday at Adams and Swanson Funeral Home, which is in charge of arrangements.
Whitaker served two terms as North Platte mayor, from 1996-04.
He was born in 1936 in Lexington. The family moved to North Platte in 1941.
Whitaker was a prominent businessman and public servant for North Platte.
After obtaining a law degree from Denver University in 1959, he worked at a Denver law firm for four years and then returned to North Platte, where he worked for and became part owner of Whitaker Furniture for nearly 25 years. He sold the furniture store to Dan Erickson in 1987, and it is now known as Erickson Furniture.
Whitaker served on the Buffalo Bill Rodeo committee from 1964-67, and became the first general chairman of Nebraskaland Days when North Platte took over the celebration from Lincoln in 1967.
During the first year, he and the eight-member board organized 32 committees and spent hundreds of hours, within four-and-a-half months, to give the celebration a good start. After getting the celebration put together, he served on the board for seven more years.
Whitaker was the last surviving member of the original eight.
During his terms as mayor, North Platte went through a spurt in development, with the Wal-Mart Distribution Center, Menard’s, Flying J Travel Center, the Poplar St. overpass, the U.S. Highway 30 bypass, as well as significant utility upgrades, including a new city well and water storage tank in the south hills. The construction of a new North Platte high school occurred in the same years.
During his tenure, North Platte was awarded community of the year honors by two state organizations and recognized for its growth and positive attitudes by the Omaha World Herald.
He spoke quietly and calmly and enjoyed helping others. He was a tireless supporter of every worthy effort in North Platte and worked to enhance the quality of life for residents and visitors. He extended his support to the North Platte Bulletin.
Among his many honors, he was Jaycee Young Man of the Year in 1972; Nebraska Retailer of the Year in 1980; University of Nebraska Distinguished Service Award in 1988; Nebraskaland Days Dale Studley Service Award; the President’s Award for Distinguished Service by the Police Officers Association of Nebraska; the Cody Scout Award; the North Platte High School Distinguished Alumni Award; the Chamber of Commerce Hall of Fame Award and the Mid-Nebraska Community Foundation’s Above and Beyond Award. He was a Paul Harris Fellow of Rotary International in 1997.
He began running road races at age 43 and ran in more than 200 races, 10 of which were 26.2 mile marathons.
Survivors include: his wife Nancy; daughter, Kim (Mike) Weesner of North Platte; son, David (Eduardo) Whitaker, of New York City; three grandchildren, Sarah (Sam) Holley of Fremont, Eric Nichols of North Platte, and Kyle (Sarah) Nichols of North Platte; five great-grandchildren, Sadie, Sophie, and Jayden Nichols of Fremont, and Treyton and Benjamin Nichols of North Platte; daughter-in-law Danielle Remus; brother, William (Bill) Whitaker of McCook; three nephews, Mark and Jeff of McCook and Kevin (Cindy) of Gilbert, AZ; cousin, Gary (Joan) Kennedy of Seattle, WA, and great-nephew, Sean Whitaker of San Francisco, CA; as well as other extended family members and many friends.
A memorial has been established to the Mid-Nebraska Community Foundation or the First United Methodist Church. Memorials can be sent to the Foundation at 121 N. Dewey #112, North Platte, NE 69103, or to the First United Methodist Church at 1600 West E Street, North Platte, NE 69101.
A private family burial will be held at North Platte Cemetery.