A Life Lived: Ed Whitehead was tied to the right things in life

Published 12:29 pm Tuesday, May 18, 2021

When Jesus in the Scriptures referred to people as “salt of the earth,” He meant that the common people he was addressing – fisherman, shepherds, laborers – were worthy and virtuous.
Ed Whitehead easily fit that definition, but he also fit in with the group of people Jesus was addressing. Whitehead was a hard worker, working most of his life as a truck driver. His first job as a driver was with Cash and Haul, selling groceries. He also drove a truck in the Army, serving during the Korean Conflict. Later, Whitehead worked at ETWNC and Jones Truck Line.
“He was a great driver. He taught me to drive,” said his daughter, Deborah Shankle.
Whitehead died April 25 at the age of 90.
However, Whitehead was much more than his work. He was tied to his roots and an avid outdoorsman. He grew up on Simerly Creek and still owned his family homeplace. “Both, he and Mom, Shirley Simerly Whitehead grew up there and they never strayed far from home. He worked the land at the family homeplace and for a time grew tobacco. He enjoyed going back there,” said Debbie.
“They moved to the Central Community to be closer to their work,” the daughter shared.
Whitehead also enjoyed the outdoors. He especially liked to hunt and fish. He hunted rabbit and grouse, and among his favorite fishing holes were the  Watauga and Holston Rivers, and even along Simerly Creek.
Whitehead had a special knack for helping people. For a period of time he served as a volunteer fireman at the Central Volunteer Department. “He lived near the fire department and was always ready when a call came in. His boots were always ready,” said Debbie with a laugh.
“He was constantly doing something at his church, Sinking Creek Baptist. Whatever they needed doing, he was there to help. He would mow and was a good fix-it person. He could fix anything,” said Debbie with pride. Whitehead had served both as a deacon and trustee at Sinking Creek Baptist.
One of Whitehead’s greatest sources of enjoyment was gardening.  He always gardened, and was so particular that when he laid off his rows for planting, he made sure they were straight and an equal distance apart. He used two large posts and a string to lay off his rows so they would be straight,” Debbie shared.
Whitehead also enjoyed traveling and had taken several trips out west and up north. “But regardless of where he went, there was no place like Simerly Creek,” said his daughter.
Ed Whitehead was tied to the things he loved – his church, family, neighbors and friends, and to his wife. He and Shirley had been married 65 years when he died. “My dad was a good-hearted, gentle person. He was the best and we were blessed to have him as long as we did. I am especially blessed to have had him as a father,” said Debbie.

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