Cover photo for James "Jim" Leroy Whittaker's Obituary
James "Jim" Leroy Whittaker Profile Photo
1922 James "jim" 2018

James "Jim" Leroy Whittaker

May 13, 1922 — March 14, 2018

     James "Jim" Leroy Whittaker, aged 95, passed away peacefully on March 14th, 2018, with daughter, Barb, at his side.  Jim is survived by his children John (Jean Promutico) Whittaker of New York, NY, Barbara Whittaker of North Branch,  and Jim (Mei) Whittaker of Portland, OR. He is preceded in death by his parents, Leroy and Agnes Whittaker; wife, Laurel Whittaker; and sister, Margaret Whittaker.
     Jim was a veteran and a member of the VFW, of the QCWA (Quarter Century Wireless Association) and a life member of  the ARRL (American Radio Relay League). He was a life-long amateur radio enthusiast (ham). His last call letters were KUØD. Ham radio was an interest which combined his twin passions for science, and its applications, and his delight in language and words. It led to a career “on the forefront of technology” (as he put it), which ended with ten years in Montréal, Canada, as Panel Secretary for the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a United Nations agency.  During his thirty-five year retirement in North Branch, MN, he spent many happy hours on weekly “schedules” with fellow hams. His spectacular antenna tower and “ham shack” were all constructed by himself from scratch, or “home-brew” as the hams say, and revealed another deep theme in his life, self-reliance and frugality.
     He was born on the East Side of St. Paul in 1922 to parents of Scandinavian heritage. He grew up there during the '20's, with his Airedale, Jack, when an ice cream cone meant "a lick for Jim and a lick for Jack".  Early developing an interest in the then-new radio technology, he was mentored by peers, and became proficient enough to be employed at Larry's Radio on Payne Avenue during high school and beyond. It was there he met his future wife, Laurel (Pederson), the sister of his co-worker, Bill.  They remained married for the next fifty-seven years, until Laurel's passing in 2005. But before this, during the war years, he had enlisted in the navy, and had seen action in the South Pacific on the crew of a night fighter squadron. He served on both the Lexington and Enterprise aircraft carriers. After the war, based on his knowledge of  aircraft radar and radio. he was hired by Northwest Airlines (now Delta) to work in their instrument shop. His natural speaking ability led to his promotion as Communication Engineer, and to frequent travels to Japan as a representative of the airline. The Japanese aesthetic appealed to him, and many objects that still ornament his home were found there.   In 1960, he joined Bendix, Avionics Division (now Allied Signal), and moved to a suburb of Maryland. When Bendix opened a branch in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, he moved again in 1968, and on to Montréal, Quebec, in Canada when he joined the ICAO as Panel Secretary in 1972.
     Deeply thoughtful, his interest were wide-ranging, from world affairs to the local town, where he and Laurel attended meetings of the county historical societies.  He was on the Planning and Zoning Commission in North Branch, MN, advocating for the environment before it became fashionable. He had a bountiful garden, organically cultivated.  Pondering his experience of the Great Depression, he foresaw the economic dislocation now being caused by robotic technology and immigration. On a lighter note, he loved music and was a skillful violin player,  merrily serenading his family on weekends during their growing-up years. His children also fondly remember trips to the old Science Museum in St. Paul, when it was housed in an old brownstone mansion near the Capitol.  They can recall his mastery of woodworking, and his ability to make himself any needed structure or repair. His handiwork included a “pig board” (pig-shaped cutting board) made in high-school wood shop, a complete stereo cabinet which housed up-to-date stereo components and an eight-track tape player installed by himself, well-designed modern white cubic storage chests, and  a superbly outfitted camping trailer. The workshop at his last North Branch home, complete with darkroom for another hobby, photography, was his pride. It is indeed a masterpiece of organization, and contains “one of each, and two of some”, as his daughter, Barb, can attest.
     He was perhaps happiest when enjoying the self-sufficiency of living  in the wilderness on annual camping trips, traveling back to Minnesota each summer to visit family.  It was then he could live a life closest to his ideal, as he imagined his hardy Scandinavian forebears to have lived.
     He never lost his fascination with words and language. After he retired, he tried his hand at verse, and one of his productions was "The Ballad of Laurel and Jim - The Story of How They Met". Even during his last days, he enjoyed working word puzzles with his daughter, Barb, and making bad puns.
     He bequeathed to his children his profound connection to both science and art, which shaped his life and theirs, and for which they will always remember him.
     Pastor Cary Johnson will officiate at a graveside service for Jim: 10 AM; Wednesday (3/28/18) in the Mission Covenant Cemetery, Rush City.  A time for friends and family to gather and pay their respects is planned for Tuesday (3/27/18) from 5-7 PM at the Olson Funeral Chapel in Rush City.  

Funeral arrangements for Mr. James Whittaker of North Branch, MN are entrusted to the Funeral and Cremation Service of Rush City ~ Olson Chapel.
To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of James "Jim" Leroy Whittaker, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services


Tuesday, March 27, 2018

5:00 - 7:00 pm (Central time)

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Graveside Service

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

10:00 - 10:30 am (Central time)

Mission Covenant Cemetery

, Rush City, MN 55069

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