James Elliot Whigham, brother, husband, father, and Pappa, age 73, peacefully drew his last breath on January 28, 2020 with his family by his side. He is survived by his wife, Marcia, daughter Karen (Karl), son Scot (Dawn), and daughter Mendy. He adored and was adored by his five grandchildren – Karl Jr, Kate, Gwen, Shelton, and Patrick.
Born and raised in Mobile, he was one of 21 children of Porter and Lela Mae Whigham (the oldest of “theirs”). Sister Martha and brothers Shelton and David and other half-siblings preceded him in death. He is survived by siblings Valeria (George), Kathy (Mike), Raymond, Dale (Virginia), and Marty (Mary Ellen) and scores of nieces and nephews. Many traveled from far and wide to visit in his last hours to thank him for his kindness and fair-handed guidance. He was often referred to as his mother’s right arm and took the role of family patriarch as a true responsibility. He treated everyone equally and fairly. He taught his oldest daughter to change tires and oil, rebuild a carburetor, and think for herself. He taught his son how to build, how to learn, and how to live. And his youngest daughter learned volumes of everyday knowledge and how to be “persistant” – his favorite word.
Money was very scarce in his childhood and he learned to be very frugal and inventive. At age 8, the local grocery store owner paid him to bag groceries just so he would stop asking for a job. He hated wasting money and resources. When the kids asked to eat out he’d offer to take them to “McWhigham’s”. He almost always did his own work so he could stand behind it 100% and you could trust it was done right. When he did have the chance to be his own general contractor, he watched every inch of board and every nail - proudly earning the title “El Cheapo”.
He had an engineer’s mind and could fix anything. He once used a toilet paper tube to repair a car engine. He could calculate a project within two nails and one tile. The Air Force recognized his natural talent and put him to work repairing jet engines, usually B-52s. He eventually separated and was given the opportunity to start Gulf Business Machines which he co-owned for more than 25 years. When not at “the office”, he brought storm-damaged shacks back to life as family homes.
He couldn’t wait for each day to begin and rose hours before the sun to research his latest “project” or he thrived on “projects”. Whether building his dream home or helping a friend, relative, or renter, he tried to never go to bed without accomplishing something every day.
We will all miss being able to pick up the phone so he can impart his wit and wisdom in his “Dog River English”. And although we never imagined he’d be taken from us this soon, he filled our lives with ambition, kindness, self-confidence, love, and hope. He was an extraordinary person we all loved and he loved us back. He was one of the most selfless people we have ever known and only wanted the best for family, friends or just acquaintances. He was a natural teacher and loved the joy of sharing anything he could to help someone. We will truly miss our brother, husband, Daddy, Pappa, Uncle James, Super Man, and El Cheapo.
His family wishes to thank all of those at Santa Rosa Medical Center, Sacred Heart Pulmonary ICU, Hospice, and the Trahan Family. James never liked to toot his own horn and so requested no funeral. Memorial donations may be sent to Covenant Care Hospice, 5041 N 12th Ave, Pensacola, FL 32504.