Life of “Papa” John Wesley Whitfield
July 11, 1929 – August 2, 2023
John Wesley Whitfield was born in Birmingham, Alabama on July 11, 1929 to Marie Robinson and James Whitfield. John grew up with an older brother James and two younger brothers Roosevelt and Altonia. His younger sister tragically died during early childhood.
John attended Parker High School in Birmingham, Alabama and graduated in 1947. He pursued higher education in St. Louis, Missouri while living with his father. John served in the U.S. Army from 1951 to 1956 where his special bookkeeping skills were recognized. He subsequently went to work at Fort Benjamin Harrison Army Finance Center in Indianapolis, Indiana. John was promoted many times and eventually reached the highest civilian level as Director of Civilian Personnel. John retired in 1994 at the age of 55 after 34 years of service.
In 1953, John met the love of his life, Barbara Smith who was also a new Finance Center employee. They quickly became a couple and married on September 5, 1954. They were committed marriage partners for 68 years and 11 months. In August of 1955 their first child, Stephanie Marie was born, and in 1957 their son, Jon Anthony was born. John and Barbara created a loving household and their home was the place for many large family gatherings. Family was everything to John. While caring for his young family, John participated in the Flanner House home construction program. This historic program enabled John to make a down payment on a brand-new home by investing 20 hours per week of “sweat equity” into its construction. They enjoyed their first home and neighborhood for 10 years before moving to their second home in the Grandview area.
In retirement John planted a garden annually for 30 years. He loved to grill and made it a centerpiece of his household activities. John and Barbara spent 10 years of retirement traveling to warmer parts of the country during the winter months, which they greatly enjoyed.
John regularly worked jigsaw puzzles and started a puzzle group at their last residence in Robin Run Senior Village where he was also a member of the Ebony and Ivory discussion group. John enjoyed baking banana-nut and pumpkin breads which were a big hit. He will be fondly remembered as a great Little League baseball coach by his son. He was a self-made man from humble beginnings, and a modest man who enjoyed helping others. In recent years John often proclaimed that he had enjoyed a good life. His family believes he lived a wonderful life.
On August 2, 2023, John departed this life at the age of 94. He was preceded in death by his three brothers James, Roosevelt, Altonia, and his young sister. John leaves to cherish his memory, his loving wife Barbara D. Whitfield; his daughter Dr. Stephanie W Smith (George); his son Jon A. Whitfield (Sherry); his grandchildren Staci N. Murrell (Orlando), Lauren B. Whitfield, Drew A. Whitfield; his great-grandchildren Jaylen, Amani, Krisily, Drew Jr, David(DJ), Bryce, Braylen, Jordyn, Dwayne; and his great-great-grandson Amir; his sister-in-law Doris Coleman; and a host of nieces, nephews and friends.
Wednesday, August 9, 2023
10:00am - 12:00pm (Eastern time)
Wednesday, August 9, 2023
12:00 - 12:00pm (Eastern time)