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Wayne Arthur Whitham of Pella, IA and Queen Creek, AZ, died Thursday, November 23, 2023, after a courageous battle with laryngeal cancer and related complications. He was born in Washington, IA on September 16th, 1953, to Milton “Irvin” Whitham and Norma (Davis) Whitham. The youngest of 4 siblings, Wayne lived the majority of his first 50 years of life in Washington, where he raised his family with the love of his life, Jackie Fulton Whitham, whom he met while working at Brown’s Shoe Fit in Mt. Pleasant. On their first date, Wayne told Jackie, “If I don’t marry you, I’m going to marry someone just like you!” They married May 29,1976, and later welcomed sons Andy and Rob.
Wayne was a loving husband, father, and grandfather—and beyond the family circle, was a friend to many and stranger to none. If you knew Wayne, chances are he would remember details about your life as well as your shoe size. Wayne enjoyed engaging in conversation both inside the shoe store and out, and he took genuine interest in the lives of the people he met. One of Wayne's greatest joys was spending time with his family.
Those who knew Wayne could attest to his zest for life as evidenced by his high energy, positive attitude, and infectious smile that he carried until the very end. Wayne simply loved life, even during obvious suffering in his final three years, as he maintained an upbeat outlook and inspired so many. Although the loss of his voice was devastating, Wayne mastered the electrolarynx and refused to shy away from his social nature.
He was fun-loving, enjoyed vacationing with family and friends, and relished in friendly competition playing cards, chess, golf, croquet, racquetball, and pickleball. Wayne's gamesmanship and love of sport resulted in countless nicknames, most recently dubbed “The Flipper” because of his trademark flip of the wrist on the pickle ball court. Wayne also enjoyed motorhome travel, watching Hawkeye sports, and challenging himself with hiking and cycling goals. He was proud to have hiked the “Flatiron” in the Superstition Range twice and rode RAGBRAI twice with the Pella Cycling Club. Wayne was an animal lover and a known “dog whisperer,” able to train canine companions to perform tricks such as play the piano. It was common for family and friends to joke about the luck one would have if only to be reincarnated as “Wayne Whitham’s dog.” Wayne especially enjoyed the company and warmth of his dog, Cooper, during the health challenges over these past years.
Wayne loved motivating, training, and developing leaders over many decades, both within the Brown’s Shoe Fit Co. and local organizations such as the Jaycees, Y’s Men, and Kiwanis, where he served as member and president. Wayne helped foster ideals of customer service and strong work ethic among numerous Brown’s manager trainees and took great interest in inspiring local youth who worked for him in his stores. All took with them greater confidence and critical lessons, especially the importance of connecting with people and that the foundation of friendship and good business is a smile and a firm handshake.
Wayne was the second of a three-generation legacy with Brown’s Shoe Fit Co. He followed in his father’s footsteps as he started working for the company in 1969 when he was in high school. Wayne was manager/owner of Brown’s in Washington from 1984-2004 and later opened the Pella Brown’s store with son, Rob, on their shared birthday on September 16th , 2004. He enjoyed decades of fun and success as a “shoe dog” and his passion even led to receiving the Store of the Year Award in 1998 as chosen by fellow managers. Wayne had a vision for taking the business mobile when he started traveling to factories in southeast Iowa to sell safety toe boots. He retired in December 2013 after a 42-year career with Brown’s Shoe Fit Co.
Wayne appreciated the spiritual counsel of Rev. Kevin Korver while on hospice care and was a member of the Third Church of Pella. He also had fond memories of fellowship with friends and family over the years at the United Presbyterian Church in Washington.
Wayne leaves behind his loving wife, Jackie, son Andy (Krista) Whitham, Mt. Vernon, IA, grandchildren Parker and Paxton, and son, Rob Whitham of Shenandoah, IA.
He is also survived by siblings: Carol Ann (Earl) Johnson, Cedar Rapids, IA, Larry Whitham, Ames, IA, Irene (Keith) Richardson, Ft. Wayne, IN. Wayne had a deep love for sister in-law Susan (Russ) Sanders, Clive, IA, and brother-in-law Rick (Annette) Fulton, Crawfordsville, IA.
He also leaves behind 11 nieces and nephews and their children.
Beyond family, Wayne had a host of life-long and treasured friends and classmates who reached out and visited with him in his final months.
Wayne was preceded in death by his parents, Irv and Norma (Davis) Whitham, father-in-law George Fulton, and mother-in-law, Meda Fulton.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be given to the WonderSpelen All-Inclusive Playground or the Kiwanis Miracle League at Prospect Meadows.
PO Box 671, Pella IA 50219
Kiwanis Miracle League at Prospect Meadows