Mrs. Willie Whitney remembered

Tuesday, September 6, 2016
Mrs. Willie Whitney congratulating Caleb Reinhart.

(I am a bit apprehensive about writing this feature remembering Mrs. Willie Caery Whitney, teacher, fan, and a friend to many. I wish she could be here to "proof" the article and correct any grammatical errors I may have. She will be remembered by her family, friends and the many students whose lives she touched.)

Willie Caery Whitney, Aug. 28, 1928 -- Aug. 22, 2016, was born and raised in the Blackwater Community near Manila. The daughter of Mr. and Mrs. W.W. Caery, Sr., she attended Blackwater School and Blackwater Church. She graduated from Manila High School.

She grew up with a passion to be a teacher and fulfilled her dream of sharing her love of education with students in area schools in Arkansas and Missouri for six decades. She received an associate degree from Williams College and bachelor's and master's degrees from Arkansas State University.

Mrs. Willie Whitney enjoyed meeting with former students from the Leachville Class of 1963. Classmates get together once a month for lunch. She taught the girls when they were in the fifth grade. This photo was taken at the July luncheon. Pictured are, from left: Back -- Georgia Ruth Beach, Paulette Parker, Kay Pickle, Frankie Towell. Seated -- Ruth Ann Taylor, Willie Whitney, Sherry Masner and Mari Hayden. (photo provided)

Mrs. Whitney taught in Manila, Leachville, Piggott, Clay County Central, Rector, Knobel, England, Cooter, Mo., and Arbyd, Mo. She also served as a long term substitute in several area schools after her retirement including Manila and Buffalo Island Central.

Her husband, Guy Whitney, Sr., was a Baptist minister and she was always involved in the churches they served.

Their children include Judith Whitney Pohlod, Guy M. Whitney, Jr., Marv Whitney and Dawn Whitney (deceased). She also has six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Mrs. Whitney supported her children and grandchildren in their activities and never stopped being a sports fan.

She believed in supporting the teams where she taught and the Razorbacks. She loved the Manila Lions and the UofA Hogs.

Manila lost one of their most loyal fans with the passing of Mrs. Whitney. She had a regular seat in the Lion gymnasium and supported the boys and girls basketball teams. She traveled to the away games as well attended the home games. She was also a football fan and rarely missed a Manila game since football was organized at MHS. She could also be seen at the baseball games.

Mrs. Whitney was always quick to praise the players for their work on the court and field or offer help with their school work if they needed it. She wanted them to do well academically as well as having a winning season.

In addition to the classroom, Mrs. Whitney tutored many students and many will give her credit for helping them. She taught English and other subjects, but her favorite was English. She called it a privilege to have been able to introduce journalism to Clay County Central during her last year there before moving to Manila and taking a teaching position at her alma mater.

After returning to her Manila roots she was an active member of Blackwater Baptist Church where she served as treasurer, Sunday school teacher and pianist.

Mrs. Whitney was quoted in a 1989 feature in the Town Crier, "Everyday I ask the Lord to give me something lasting to give my students" and "if you don't love teaching and children you do not need to be a teacher. All careers come through the teaching profession -- doctors, lawyers and other professions."

Mrs. Whitney met for lunch once a month with former students from her early teaching days in Leachville. She also was a member of a ukulele band that visited nursing centers sharing their time and talent to make the days of others a little better.

Sherry Masner of Jonesboro and her classmates from the Leachville Class of 1963 get together once a month for lunch. Mrs. Whitney taught the girls when they were in the fifth grade. She was invited by a fellow teacher and former student Georgia Beach.

"We were excited to have Mrs. Whitney join us," Masner said. "She remembered us and would share stories about some of the things we said or did when we were in the fifth grade. I don't think she ever forgot any of her students. She was a true teacher. She encouraged all of us. It is hard to believe she is gone. She joined us at our July 27 luncheon and we all had a wonderful visit. She will be missed."

Manila High School Principal and former girls basketball coach Mark Manchester shared his thoughts. Manchester was a former student of Mrs. Whitney when she taught at Clay County.

"Mrs. Whitney had a tremendous impact on my life as a teacher and mentor," Manchester said. "As a student she encouraged me to be the best I could be and never settle for anything less. She continued to encourage and support me in my career as a coach. She was always there. When I became principal she was one of the first to congratulate me. When I married in September she was there to support me. She is as fine a teacher as any I have had through high school or college. Very few teachers care about their students as she did. I have always said teaching is a calling. Her calling was evident. She never stopped teaching or caring about her students. There is not a kid at Manila High School who has not been touched by her. When you looked around the church at her funeral it was filled with her former students who had been encouraged by her. I am honored to have had her as my teacher, my mentor and my friend."

Mr. Manchester said she never stopped teaching him. During his last year as coach at Manila a student came to the gym and told him Mrs. Whitney wanted to see him.

"Just like I would have when I was in high school, I hurried over to the English room," Manchester said. "I occasionally filled in as speaker at church when Brother Pentecost was out of town. Mrs. Whitney knew I was going to speak on Sunday, and she handed me a folder and said she had made a few sermon notes for Sunday. I could use them if I wanted to. I did use them. I never stopped learning from her. She was a great person and I will miss her."

Caleb Reinhart, a 2015 graduate of Manila High School, shared his memories of Mrs. Whitney.

"Mrs. Whitney meant the world to me. Every time I came in the classroom to see her as the substitute teacher, it always excited me. She loved to educate students and that really meant a lot to me. One time during my 10th grade year, she was the substitute teacher for my English class and after I turned in my writing assignment for the day, she read through it and asked me to meet with her after class. I met with her and she went through my paper line by line correcting my mistakes with me. She then asked me to rewrite the paper and turn it in to my teacher the next day. I did this without any hesitation. Mrs. Whitney also never missed a basketball game! After every game, win or loss, she was always the first to greet me out of the locker room with a hug. I have a picture of us together after the biggest night of my life (winning the Regional Championship). You can tell she was just excited as I was! She was always so positive and encouraged me to do my best. I will never forget her, she was truly a blessing."

A poem written by one of her former students from Clay County Central, Kristy Mouser, was a special tribute to Mrs. Whitney and she shared it in the 1989 Town Crier feature.

The Real You

When I was just a sophomore

I heard some terrible things.

"Ms Whitney gives you tons of homework"

She'll even make you sing!!

She'll make you keep a journal

To write in everyday.

And if you have thirty pages

She'll award you with an A!

And then you'll hear her saying,

"Yes, it's that time of year.

It's time to start on term papers."

And then you start to fear.

Now that I'm a junior,

I realize all that's true,

You do give lots of homework,

But that's what you're

supposed to do.

But now that you are leaving

I hope you won't forget,

I love you dearly, Mrs. Whitney,

And that's something I'll never regret!!!

I'll Miss You.

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