LUSK – Donald Emery Whiteaker “Don,” 85, of Lusk passed away on Feb. 1, 2021 in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Don was born June 1, 1935 in Crawford, Neb. to Emmitt Emery “Abie” and Mary (Reed) Whiteaker. Don grew up in Harrison, Neb. and graduated from Sioux County High School in 1953. After high school, Don attended Oklahoma State University, was a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity and graduated with a degree in Business.
Don had many adventures during and after his college career. He helped build cabins in the Grand Teton National Park and served in the United States Army in Nuremberg, Germany in Occupational Forces. After being honorably discharged, he returned to Colorado and became a salesman for Stetson Hat Company.
In 1962, he was asked by his family to move to Lusk to operate the family business, Whiteaker’s Clothing Store. It was during this time that he met and married the love of his life Dorothy Rae “Dot” Whiteaker (Percival) and raised his family in Lusk, a place that remained his home the rest of his life.
He was a true entrepreneur. From 1962 to 1984, he and Dot operated Whiteaker’s Clothing Store on Main Street in Lusk. In addition to the store, he farmed and raised cattle.
In 1982, Don was elected Mayor of Lusk, where he served for 14 years. As Mayor, he accomplished many things for his hometown. He negotiated with the railroads to build the overpass in Lusk (affectionately known as “Whiteaker Mountain’’). He partnered with the management of the Lusk Municipal Golf Course to build and improve the facility for all to enjoy. In 1993, under his leadership and vision, Lusk was the first American small town to be wired with fiber optics, a game-changing technology that got the town national media attention from Forbes Magazine and CBS’s Sunday Mornings with Charles Kuralt.
After his years as Mayor, he was appointed by the Governor to head the Local Government Self Insurance Pool for the state of Wyoming. Even in retirement, Don shared his love and knowledge of Lusk and Wyoming, whether it was a guided tour of a one-room schoolhouse or a trek to Fort Robinson with his grandchildren, Don’s passion for history and telling a good story was always something to look forward to. Up until a few years ago, you could take a walk down Main Street and find Don volunteering at the Stagecoach Museum, answering phones in Dot’s State Farm office or just hanging out in the coffee shop. He truly loved being a part of Lusk.
Don is remembered for his kindness, generosity and love of his family. He was an avid fly fisherman, mustering infinite patience to teach his craft. He was also a master of the art of parallel skiing and a life-long lover of golf. He even has a Hole-In-One to his credit! He loved the outdoors, trips to Jackson Hole and was always passionate about his western roots. He is preceded in death by his parents Abie and Mary Whiteaker, and his “Auntie,” Edna Reed who helped raise him. He is survived by his wife Dot of 58 years, daughter Marybeth Nelson (Jerry) of Broomfield, Colorado, son Tom (Marah) of Danville, Calif., Grandchildren: Jeffrey, Joseph, Abbegail, Nicholas, Nathan and Timothy and his brothers Rob of Phoenix, Ariz. and Joe of Harrison, Neb. He will be missed by countless nieces, nephews and cousins and of course by his “family” of friends and neighbors.
Funeral services will be held in Lusk on Monday, Feb. 15, 2021 at 2 p.m. at St. George’s Episcopal Church. The family requests that remembrances be made to The Don Whiteaker Memorial, company of Dot Whiteaker, 32924 N. 69th St., Scottsdale, AZ 85266. Pier Funeral Home in Lusk is in charge of arrangements.