A pillar of the Warren community lost his battle with lymphoma Monday morning.
Dave Whipple was known by most people as the morning voice of WNAE-WRRN, but he was also a Sunday school teacher to thousands of junior and senior high students at First United Methodist Church in Warren, and, over the years, served on numerous boards and committees for churches and service organizations and was active in the community even while fighting the disease.
Jane Culver, secretary for the church, said Whipple's death "will leave a big hole." He was active in the church, as an usher, and was master of ceremonies for the annual LOGOS afterschool talent show.
Times Observer file photo
Dale Bliss, left, and Dave Whipple broadcasting from the Warren County Fair.
Dee Dee Tucker, a volunteer at First United Methodist Church, said he always made the kids feel good about themselves, sometimes even when he was being silly. She said the kids always liked listening when he read the daily school lunch menus on the radio, as he called mashed potatoes "smashed potty toes."
Kara Donaldson, also a church volunteer who was diagnosed with a brain tumor five years ago, said, "He was... is an inspiration to me. The one thing everyone can remember was that he had a joyful spirit."
"We used to listen to the radio every day, hoping Dave would say there was no school."
She added that when college students from the church came home, they lined up for a hug from him.
Donaldson's husband Matt, director of student ministries at First United Methodist Church, said, "Even in the midst of what he was going through, he was always thinking of the people around him."
Melissa Treacy, now 32 and living near Philadelphia, said she met Dave at First United Methodist Church when she was just six years old.
"When I was in need of a confirmation mentor, I could think of no better role model," Treacy said. "From a young age, attending the LOGOS program at the First United Methodist Church, I grew up with an amazing extra father figure. I can remember him teaching us everything from Bible studies to how to hang a spoon off of our noses. Even with a stellar dad of my own, I was blessed to have his influence throughout my childhood."
"Dave was always a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen and a man of profound, thoughtful advice," Treacy added. "As I grew older, he had time to hear about everything from friends, to marriage and divorce, from college finals to getting my first credit card, even my professional work references. Dave was always someone I could rely on to be there for me. He was always in my corner. Each time I'd return to my hometown, we'd grab lunch and catch up. No matter how much time passed by in between visits, we'd pick up right where we left off."
"As an adult, I realize now just how many lives he touched," Treacy said. "I will miss the great mentor, listener and friend. He was an incredible man. We are all lucky to have known him, and I feel grateful for the time we were able to spend as friends. I'm glad he is no longer suffering, and that heaven has another angel, but this world will certainly miss having him here on earth."
Treacy's sister, Hillary Anderson, said in a Facebook post, "Today I am thankful that David B. Whipple has finally found peace, and so glad I was given the gift of his mentorship, his guidance and his love for 21 years. The world has certainly lost a magnificent angel, but his spirit will live on in the countless number of people who were lucky enough to know him."
The Rev. Dr. Jeff Sterling of First United Methodist Church said, "He had a killer voice for radio and a great sense of humor, with an incredible mind. He could have been very high profile in a bigger market. What you see is what you get with him."
"Senior high Sunday school was his real legacy, he understood these kids," he said. "He could speak to all with a great compassion and reach out to kids with a poor self-image."
"He wasn't a great Bible scholar, but he knew how to live his faith with credibility and integrity. His three favorite things were enjoying life, love and walking the Christian faith," he said.
"When kids came back from college and visited him, they would tear up, knowing it might be the last time," Sterling said. "Last week he said, 'I'm ready to meet Jesus'."
"Even in the most difficult part of his journey, God was guiding him."
Doris Labowski and Dave Wilcox of the Warren County Fair said Whipple was an integral part of the Warren County Fair. When the radio station started to broadcast from the fair it was a major asset for the annual event.
"Things we will remember about Dave was that he was a connoisseur of all kinds of fair food and just loved to try the different varieties available," Labowski and Wilcox wrote in an email. " We also found out that Dave was afraid of large animals and he would keep his distance from them when we asked him for a picture with a large draft horse."
"Dave will be sadly missed by all and we will continue to remember him for years to come. Our deepest condolences to the family from the Warren County Fair Board."
Dale Bliss, who worked for Whipple at WNAE/WRRN for 18 years, said, "He was an excellent man to work for. It was a joy, and I looked forward to seeing him every day."
He said that working the Warren County Fair with Whipple "was like being on paid vacation. It was hard work, but it was so much fun we wouldn't have it any other way."
"He used to end his broadcasts with 'Be good to each other,' and he believed the world would be a better place if they did."
Bliss said that Whipple was recruited by LeRoy Schneck in 1975. "He planned to stay for a couple of years, but it didn't work out that way. He fell in love with the community."
"He had a positive attitude even when things were difficult. People will remember him for that," he added. "He was a very loving man and I will miss him very much."