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James Wright Whitaker

Published On: Mar 02 2013 03:17:02 PM CST
Updated On: Mar 02 2013 03:17:47 PM CST

Verona, WI -- James Wright Whitaker died March 1, 2013, at Agrace Hospice Care following complications from a 28-year history of Parkinson’s Disease.

He was born to Marion Saunders and Joel Whitaker of Granville, Ill., on July 15, 1936. He was educated in the Granville public schools. Upon high school graduation in 1954, he volunteered for service in the U.S. Army during which he served in Germany and traveled throughout western Europe. Following his service he attended Oberlin College, Oberlin, Ohio and earned a BA in history in 1960. At age 10 he determined that he would become a historian and fulfilled his ambition at the University of Wisconsin where he earned his M.S. and Ph.D. He joined the Department of History at Iowa State University in 1965 and during his professorship there he worked on the development of the Native American Studies program, the Ph.D. program in Agricultural History, and taught and wrote on the history of agriculture in the United States. Parkinson’s Disease forced his retirement in 1998.

In 1970 he married Faye Pauli of rural Belleville who joined him on the Iowa
State faculty. 1975 marked the birth of their twin daughters Martha Hopkins Pauli Whitaker and Katherine Clara Saunders Whitaker.

He was a member of several professional organizations, the board of the Iowa State University Press, Ames United Church of Christ, where he served as treasurer for 18 years, and many other university and community committees and boards.

For retirement he and Faye, along with brother Sidney Whitaker, renovated the family farmhouse and gardens at Cedar Point, Ill. At the same time, a move from Ames to part-time residence in Verona in 2003 brought him back to Madison and renewed association with First Congregational Church.

He is survived by his wife, Faye, daughters Martha and Katherine, sons-in-law Darin McCauley and Colin Richmond, and grandsons Nathaniel McCauley and Miles Richmond, as well as his brother Sidney of Cedar Point.

He was preceded in death by his parents, his brother Joel Philip, and his brother-in-law Robert Pauli.

Memorial services will be held at 6 pm on Tuesday, March 5, 2013, at First Congregational Church, 1609 University Ave., Madison, at the corner of Breeze Terrace and Old University. A gathering in the church parlors will follow the service.
Parking and handicapped accessibility are described on the church website,

The Zentner-Beal Funeral Home of New Glarus is serving the family.

His memory may be commemorated by contributions to the Whitaker-Hopkins-Bent Scholarship Fund at Oberlin College or the First Congregational Church/ United Church of Christ in Madison.

An online memorial with guestbook is available at

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