|Whitaker Corp. founder Robert Whitaker Sr. dies at 83|
|Monday, 07 May 2012 08:30 AM EDT|
Robert E. “Bob” Whitaker Sr., Whitaker Corporation founder and president, died Thursday, May 3, in his Pittsburgh-area home with Mary, his wife of 62 years, by his side and family members singing the hymn “Because He Lives.” He was 83.
“This world has lost a champion for Christ,” said son Robert E. Whitaker Jr., who succeeds his father as Whitaker corporate president. “Our loss is heaven’s gain. We take comfort knowing dad is safe in the arms of Jesus.”
Today, Whitaker Corp. is composed of its publishing division, Whitaker House, and sister company Anchor Distributors, which delivers books and other products from hundreds of companies to retailers worldwide.
It all began in the 1960s when Whitaker started giving away copies of David Wilkerson’s The Cross and the Switchblade.
“God led me to literally give books away—by the hundreds—as a ministry to help others find the joy and peace I’d found,” he wrote in 2010 as the corporation celebrated its 40th anniversary.
“Eventually, my office and my garage ‘warehouse’ overflowed,” he explained. “I took a step of faith and sold my first business. With God’s help, our distributing endeavor was born, and shortly thereafter, the publishing arm.”
In announcing the news of his father’s death to the staff, Bob Whitaker Jr. and his brother, John Whitaker, assured employees that the company was in good financial shape and that their father had long ago established a plan for his estate and leadership transition.
Earlier in the week, at John’s suggestion, Bob Sr. officially turned over his role as president to Bob Jr. While largely a symbolic gesture, both brothers expressed gratitude that the mantle was passed to the next generation with their father’s blessings.
“I’m so thankful to John for his confidence in me and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit,” Bob said. “I have some big shoes to fill, but I’m confident, with God’s help, the mission and purpose Dad had for this company will continue to grow. We’re blessed—we’re the apple of God’s eye! I fully expect to double in size in the next seven years.”
Born in 1928, Whitaker went on to become an Eagle Scout. He served in U. S. Army, stationed in Germany, immediately following World War II. He received an honorary Doctorate of Divinity from National Bible College and Seminary, Ft. Washington, Md., and was ordained by the National Church of God, Washington, D.C.
He served as a counselor for The 700 Club and Cornerstone Television, and as a teacher and Bible study leader at his home church. A longtime member and chapter president of Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship International, Whitaker served a term as its International Director.
Family members say, however, that the ministry that most ignited his passion was his work with prisoners. In conjunction with a variety of local and national ministries, he volunteered as a Bible teacher and Theotherapy facilitator at the Allegheny County Jail and state correctional facilities in Pittsburgh and Greensburg, Pa. In 2006, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell named Whitaker “Volunteer of the Year” for his 25 years of service to the state’s prison population.
Whitaker is survived by his wife, the former Mary Heurich; six children: Lois Gregg, Nancy Newbury, Robert E. Whitaker Jr., Paul Whitaker, John Whitaker and Mark Whitaker; 26 grandchildren; and his sister, Marilyn Ruffner.
The funeral will be held at Monroeville Assembly of God in Monroeville, Pa., on Tuesday morning, May 8. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to Monroeville Assembly of God and Cornerstone Television, Wall, Pa.