Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Gary W. Whitis, 49, teacher, led band



By Chris Mayhew
The Cincinnati Enquirer

BURLINGTON - Gary W. Whitis always wanted the students he taught to love and appreciate music the way he did.

Mr. Whitis, band director and a music teacher at Conner Middle School for more than 20 years, died Saturday at his home from pancreatic cancer. He was 49.

"He wanted those kids to love music," his wife, Julie, said. "He wanted them to appreciate it."

Whitis studied music at Murray State University in Murray, Ky., and taught music for schools in Missouri after graduating from college.

After teaching in Missouri, he came back to teach music at his alma mater at Dixie for a few years before his tenure at Conner.

"Nobody gave more than Gary," said Robert T. Parton, a 1982 graduate of Lloyd High School and the director of Jazz Studies and Large Ensembles at the Chicago College of Performing Arts.

"To Gary, it didn't matter what school you went to - he would always help," said Parton, who met him at a regional band competition.

Whitis taught music for 26 years, and several of his students went on to have professional careers in music, his wife said.

Diagnosed with cancer in October 2002, he continued to teach until August, said his wife.

His brother Don of Latonia said he simply loved kids.

"His passion was his students," his brother said.

Outside of school, Whitis stayed busy singing and playing for area churches. He was a member of the choir at Belleview Baptist Church in Boone County.

He was also the director of the Florence Community Chorus & Band, also singing in the chorus.

Other survivors include his stepbrother, Don Mueller; his stepfather, Russell Mueller; and nieces and nephews.

A service will be at 11 a.m. today at Lakeside Christian Church, 195 Buttermilk Pike, Lakeside Park. Burial will be in Petersburg Cemetery. Stith Funeral Home in Florence is handling arrangements.

Memorials donations may be made to the Gary W. Whitis Music for the Kids Fund at any Heritage Bank location.

E-mail cmayhew@enquirer.com




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