James D. (Jim) Whitaker passed away peacefully at home surrounded by his loved ones on June 7, 2017 in the hometown he loved so much, North Platte, NE.
Jim was born on October 20, 1936 in Lexington, NE to James E. and Kathleen (Kennedy) Whitaker. The family moved to North Platte, NE in 1941 where Jim attended North Platte Public Schools and graduated in 1955. He attended the University of Nebraska in Lincoln and earned a B.S. Degree in Business in 1955. He moved to Denver, CO, where he earned a J.D. Degree from the University Of Denver College Of Law in 1959. On June 14, 1959, Jim and Nancy (Morris) Whitaker were united in marriage in North Platte. They lived in Denver for four years before returning to North Platte in 1963. While in Denver, Jim worked for the law firm, Jones, Meiklejohn, Kilroy and Kehl, and Nancy worked for the Denver Department of Welfare. After returning to North Platte, Jim worked for and was part owner of Whitaker Furniture. Jim sold the furniture store to Dan Erickson in 1987, and it is now known as Erickson Furniture. He was involved in many community activities and projects after his return to North Platte. He served on the Buffalo Bill Rodeo Committee from 1964 to 1967, after which he had the honor of serving as the first General Chairman of NEBRASKAland DAYS when North Platte took over the celebration from Lincoln in 1967. After two years as General Chairman he served for seven more years on the Board. During the first year, he organized 32 separate committees and spent hundreds of hours to give the celebration a good start. All of the work had to be done in four-and-a-half months, but Jim and eight hard-working Board members somehow got the work done. Jim was extremely proud of his association with NEBRASKAland DAYS. He was the last surviving member of the original eight, and their legacy will live on forever in North Platte. He served as President of the North Platte Noon Rotary Club in 1973, Vice-Chairman of the Urban Renewal Authority, Chairman of the Civil Service Commission, first chairman of the North Platte Trail Committee, Chairman of the Airport Authority, and Elder in the Presbyterian Church, President of the Mid-Nebraska Community Foundation and was a member of the North Platte Ambassadors. He also served on the following boards: North Platte Chamber of Commerce; the Development Corporation; the Great Plains Regional Medical Center Board; the Salvation Army; the Downtown Merchants Board; Creativity Unlimited Arts Council; and Region II Advisory Board. Statewide positions held by Jim are: two years as President of the Nebraska Retail Merchants Association; Nebraska State Historical Society Board; Executive Committee of the League of Nebraska Municipalities; and Board member of the University of Nebraska Alumni Association. Jim was elected to serve for two terms as North Platte Mayor from 1996 to 2004. During his tenure as Mayor, North Platte was twice awarded Community of the Year honors by two state organizations. North Platte was also recognized during this period for its growth and positive attitudes by the Omaha World Herald. Jim loved North Platte and always sought to improve life for its residents and visitors. During his terms as Mayor, he helped bring more jobs and opportunities to North Platte through the Wal-Mart Distribution Center, Menards, and the Flying J. He also helped increase tourism through the Golden Spike and started all of the trails in North Platte through the North Platte Trails Committee. He also helped facilitate bringing the statue of Buffalo Bill to Cody Park and remained lifelong friends with the artist. Over the years, Jim received many awards and honors. Some are as follows: Jaycee Young Man of the Year in 1972; Nebraska Retailer of the Year in 1980; University of Nebraska Distinguished Service Award in 1988; NEBRASKAland DAYS Dale Studley Service Award; the President’s Award for Distinguished Service by the Police Officers Association of Nebraska; the Cody Scout Award; the North Platte High School Distinguished Alumni Award; the Chamber of Commerce Hall of Fame Award and the Mid-Nebraska Community Foundation’s Above and Beyond Award. He was also named a Paul Harris Fellow of Rotary International in 1997. Jim participated in sports most of his life. He began running road races at the age of 43 and ran in over 200 races, 10 of which were 26.2 mile marathons. He helped organize the North Platte running club known as ACES, and he was the race director for several North Platte races. Jim had a passion for Nebraska football and began following the Huskers from around age 12. He listened to all of the games on the radio, then attended all of the home games while a student at UNL. He missed one televised game because of a Saturday wedding, but he kept a small radio in his pocket.
Survivors include: his wife and best friend, Nancy; his daughter, Kim (Mike) Weesner of North Platte; his son, David (Eduardo) Whitaker, of New York City; his three grandchildren, Sarah (Sam) Holley of Fremont, Eric Nichols of North Platte, and Kyle (Sarah) Nichols of North Platte; five great-grandchildren, Sadie, Sophie, and Jayden Nichols of Fremont, and Treyton and Benjamin Nichols of North Platte; daughter-in-law Danielle Remus; brother, William (Bill) Whitaker of McCook, NE; three nephews, Mark and Jeff of McCook and Kevin (Cindy) of Gilbert, AZ; cousin, Gary (Joan) Kennedy of Seattle, WA, and great-nephew, Sean Whitaker of San Francisco, CA; as well as other extend family members and many friends.
He was preceded in death by his grandparents, Clifford Milburn and Kathryn Blanchert Whitaker and William and Katharine Hofferber Kennedy; his parents, James E. and Kathleen Whitaker; aunt, Ellen Christensen; his parents-in-law, Loren and Maxine Morris; great-niece, Lindsey Whitaker; as well as many close lifelong friends he considered family; and his beloved childhood Cocker Spaniel, Tinker.
A memorial has been established to the Mid-Nebraska Community Foundation or the First United Methodist Church. Memorials can be sent to the Foundation at 121 North Dewey #112, North Platte, NE 69103, or to the First United Methodist Church at 1600 West E Street, North Platte, NE 69101. Online condolences may be shared at www.adamsswanson.com. Private family burial will be held at North Platte Cemetery. Memorial services will be held 2:00 p.m. Monday, June 12, 2017 at the First United Methodist Church with The Reverend Dr. Douglas Delp officiating. There will be a reception at the church following the service. Visitation will be from noon until 6:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, with the family receiving friends from 4:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. on Sunday, at Adams and Swanson Funeral Home, which is in charge of arrangements.