William “Bill” Whitney, 85, died on March 30 in the presence of family at Westminster Place. He led a life of community service. He was a mentor, an inventor, a pilot, and a lifelong volunteer.
Mr. Whitney studied mechanical engineering at Northwestern University and enrolled in in the Naval ROTC program. He graduated from Northwestern in 1952 and then served three years in the U.S. Navy as a lieutenant on the carrier U.S.S. Tarawa and the destroyer U.S.S. Witek. He received an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School in 1958 and then returned to the Chicago area.
In 1964, Mr. Whitney started his own manufacturing firm, W.G. Whitney Corporation, inventing and manufacturing medical products. He earned 10 patents for medical devices. His company was one of the first to recognize the hazards of medical waste and introduced a line of products designed to collect and disinfect waste from hospital laboratories in the 1970s.
Mr. Whitney was an active member of his church, Northminster Presbyterian, serving as deacon and elder over the years. He also was known for his energetic and creative Sunday School lessons for junior high school students. After 9/11, Mr. Whitney and his wife, Ann, took part in an interfaith discussion group that brought Christians and Muslims together.
Mr. Whitney also volunteered his time to Junior Achievement, teaching and encouraging young entrepreneurs. He was active in politics and public policy, volunteering for many campaigns. He served on the Evanston Zoning Board of Appeals.
At age 47, he earned his private pilot’s lesson and flew more than 3, 400 hours. He was a volunteer pilot for the Young Eagles program at Meigs Field, co-sponsored by the Tuskegee Airmen and Experimental Aircraft Association, through which 471 children were given their first flight, free. He was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002.
Mr. Whitney had an enduring interest in the theater beginning at Northwestern, where he served as co-chairman of the Waa-Mu show in 1951. Mr. Whitney was co-owner of the Wagon Wheel Theatre in Warsaw, Ind. He served as treasurer for the Sarah Siddons Society, a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing theater in the Chicago area, as well as being a benefactor to many local theater companies.
He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Ann; a well-known Chicago actress; their four children, Steven Whitney (Barbara), Lisa Gyori (Thomas, Sarah Whitney (Blake Dickie), and Michael (Petrana Cleary); nine grandchildren: Lauren, Sarah, Christopher, Austin, Nathan, Shannan, Carina: Claire, Kate; three great-grandchildren Grayson McCarthy, Audrey McCarthy, and Elijah Brokaw, as well as his sister, Mary Louise Whitney Chapman. He was preceded in death by his brother, Richard Whitney.
Those wishing to make a gift in Mr. Whitney’s memory may do so to Midwest Palliative & Hospice CareCenter, 2050 Claire Court, Glenview, IL 60025-7635, Att: Donation 847-467-7423 or to EEAA Young Eagles, P.O Box 3616, Oshkosh, WI 54903, or www.youngeagles.org., referencing William G. Whitney in the memo.