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Obituary of Reverend Thomas Whitehead
Reverend Thomas Whitehead passed away after a full life, committed to the service to others. He lived with an intensity that few can match demonstrating and sharing a profound belief that to understand our world required an equal appreciation of spirituality, science, art, and human nature. He saw the hand of God in the mysteries of science, the complexity of nature, the beauty of artistic expression, and the joy and sorrows of human interaction. Tom loved people and was the eternal extrovert with a perpetual twinkle in his eye allowing him to be a Pied Piper of people or the leader, depending on the time and circumstance. He never missed a chance to be with people to share his enthusiasm, sense of humor and laughter. Tom was born on June 29, 1933 in Cheyenne, Wyoming to Dale and Rose Whitehead under modest circumstances during the midst of the Great Depression. Despite the economic struggles and hurdles that would drive many to despair, fear and selfishness, he felt called to the ministry and honored that call his entire life. He benefited from the proximity of a large extended family that he cherished. He chose to minister to individuals and communities guided by an intense desire for equity, ecumenical faith, and social justice for all people. He demonstrated this commitment with action at a local, national and international level. The first in his family to pursue higher education he graduated from Willamette University with a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature, then Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California receiving a Master of Divinity. Tom was ordained in the Methodist Church in 1958. He met his true love Beverly Wright in Portland, Oregon. They shared the same Birthday and conveniently were married on the same date June 29th marking the beginning of 65 years of marriage. Tom and Bev viewed their ministry as a shared commitment serving seven local churches in Oregon and Alaska, and nine years as a District Superintendent in the Southern Idaho and Western Oregon. They embraced the unique challenges and opportunities of each of the congregations and communities. Their actions were at times bold and always unconditional and unselfish. The larger United Methodist Church benefited from Tom’s thoughtful leadership including his service as a Director of Global Ministries, a delegate to the National Annual Conference, a member of the Judicial Board for Western Region of the United Methodist Church, and time on the Board of Trustees for Willamette University then Willamette View Manor. He enjoyed writing and had several articles published in national professional journals. Tom and Bev were fortunate to travel together and with close friends throughout, Europe, Central America, Africa, Jamaica and Cuba and throughout the United States. Many of their travels were motivated by volunteer work including Panama, Chili, and Republic of Georgia. He loved his family, Bev, people in general, laughter, travel, climbing Mount Hood, the Oregon Coast, carving soapstone, competitive sports, writing, and was not especially handy with power tools. Although an Oregon State Beaver supporter in his early years, much to the shame of his son Don, he became a passionate Oregon Ducks fan. Tom is survived by his devoted wife and life partner Bev, daughter Kathleen Whitehead, sons Don and Dan Whitehead, four grandchildren, the people whose lives he touched including past and future members of congregations and communities he served. Donations in Tom’s memory can be made to the OR-ID Conference camping program at 1505 SW 18th Ave., Portland, OR 97201, or to The PSU Landing at Portland First UMC at https://fumcpdx.org/landing/.
A Memorial Tree was planted for Reverend Thomas
We are deeply sorry for your loss ~ the staff at Wilhelm's Portland Memorial Funeral Home - Mausoleum - Crematory