It with heavy hearts that the family of W. Gene Whetsell announces that he went home to be with his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ on the evening of Wednesday, January 4th, 2023 at the age of 86.
Gene was born in Bowman, S.C. on October 29, 1936. As a young teenager, he worked on a neighbor’s dairy farm milking 20 cows each morning – by hand – before school. Gene was an accomplished athlete, leading his high school baseball team to a state championship in 1953. Passion for the game of baseball, along with his love for children, drove him to invest more than 12 years coaching and an additional 34 years umpiring boys baseball and girls softball, including numerous state high school championship games as well as Division 1 college games.
Gene’s professional life was largely dominated by his work outdoors and his 57 years as a Registered Land Surveyor as well as his life-long passion for service to others. He served in the National Guard, worked for S.C. DOT and served for 20 years as Colleton County’s first Tax Assessor. He was elected to Colleton County Council in 2002, where he served continuously until earlier this month. In Colleton County, Gene served on the Recreation Commission, Fire Commission, Planning Commission as well as representing the county on the Lowcountry Council of Governments.
Gene’s many accomplishments include: devising and leading a four-year project that literally developed and executed the plan to map and appraise every parcel of real property in Colleton County for the first time; surveying from the South Carolina/Georgia border to Route 176 what is now I-95; helping build the Colleton Rec. Area Complexes and 12 athletic fields; leading the effort to unify 14 separate fire regions into a single, efficient district; attaining the top rating for the county’s Fire-Rescue program; completing the county’s Farmers Market and Museum; and renovating and preserving numerous local and historic buildings.
Gene spent more than 65 years dedicated to making Colleton County a better place for youth in his community, and his service to others and earned the respect of his colleagues. In 2013, the Colleton County Recreation Commission honored Gene’s work and his devotion to seeing the Ace Basin Sports Complex facility to fruition by asking Gene to throw out the first pitch to begin what has now become a premier youth travel tournament venue. In fact, hundreds of teams with over 130,000 youth athletes from throughout the country now play there annually and the facility has meant a direct 40% increase in gross sales for both the hotel and restaurant industry in the County, and over $16 million in economic impact for the county annually.
Gene’s life was an example of the values and virtues of hard work, personal responsibility, faith in God, devotion to family and love for Colleton County. He was known for his quick wit and his unique storytelling ability. His knowledge of what seemed to be trivial information held philosophical meaning…and was always delivered with a spirit of humor and cloaked with his signature deep Lowcountry brogue.
Gene’s life was greatly impacted by the death of his 15-year old grandson in 2007, when his journey to faith and his understanding of the life-changing hope we have in Jesus Christ was evident.
Gene’s 11 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren loved their “Poppa Gene,” and Poppa Gene always returned that love with generosity, devotion, loyalty, promptly answering his phone, and often with an open wallet.
Gene’s heavenly reunion was led by his grandson, Austin Whetsell of Lexington, his daughter-in-law, Tammy Long of Green Pond, his brother-in-law, Butch Looper of Bowman, and his mother and father Virene and Jack Whetsell of Bowman,
He is survived by his wife Kathie Padgett Whetsell of Green Pond, brother Ashley (Darla) of Irmo, sister Gwen of Bowman, daughters Deryl Paradis (Gerry) of Greenville, Terri Johnk (Fritz) of Hornick, IA, and Carmen Johnson of Greenville; and sons David Long of Green Pond, and Walter Gene Whetsell, Jr. (Kim) of Lexington; grandchildren Ashlyn, Hans (Kim) and Gabe Johnk; Taylor, Walter Gene III (Caitlyn), and Emma Whetsell; Kelly Banks (Mikey), Case and Brayes Johnson, and Lauren Long; and great-grandchildren Sawyer, Bailey, Myka and Eli Maronn, Ada Mae and Mina Jo Johnk, Kayla, Justin and River Banks, and Autumn Jennings.
The family will receive visitors at the Colleton County High Performing Arts Center, 150 Cougar Nation Drive in Walterboro, on Sunday, January 8, 2023 at 1:00 p.m. with a the funeral service to follow at 3:00 p.m. A private entombment will follow at Greenlawn Memorial Gardens Mausoleum in Walterboro.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in his memory to St. Judes Childrens Research Hospital, 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, TN 38105 or online at www.StJude.org or the charity of your choice.
To Kathie, who loved and cared for Gene for more than 45 years, you have set an example for your family with your selfless love for and deep devotion to our Poppa Gene.
And to Poppa Gene, from your family who loves you and your Savior who saved you, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Arrangements by: THE BRICE W. HERNDON AND SONS FUNERAL HOMES AND CREMATORY, WALTERBORO CHAPEL, 1193 Bells Hwy, Walterboro, SC, 29488. Visit the guestbook online at: www.briceherndonfuneralhome.com.