Originally created 05/28/03

Featured obituary: Mr. James McWhirter

Even though James McWhirter faced much adversity during his life, he handled bravely.

"The first thing that comes to mind is bravery," said his son, Dana McWhirter. "From the time he was stricken with cancer and was handed a terminal diagnosis, he handled it like a man."

Mr. McWhirter, 80, died Thursday with his family by his side at St. Joseph Hospice. Graveside services took place Tuesday in Westover Memorial Park.

Mr. McWhirter was born Aug. 22, 1922, in Birmingham, Ala. He left home at the start of World War II and enlisted in the Army Air Corps. He served as a navigator and bombardier in the 429th Squadron, 2nd Bombardier Group stationed in Foggia, Italy.

On his sixth bombing mission over Eastern Europe, his B-17 aircraft was shot down over the Adriatic Sea, 40 miles from Yugoslavia. The crew was rescued by a British torpedo boat soon after the crash. Mr. McWhirter suffered minor cuts to his mouth and a cracked vertebra.

He was soon sent back to the United States to recuperate in a hospital in St. Angelo, Texas, where his wife would soon to deliver their son, Dana. The two even shared a hospital room.

The McWhirters moved to Augusta in 1959. Mr. McWhirter went to work with a friend at Hertz Rent A Car and the Fort Gordon Bus Co. He was an accountant at both businesses.

Mr. McWhirter was a fan of all sports but had a special fondness for golf.

"Golf was his life," his son said. "Dad played golf several times a week at Forest Hills Golf Club right up until the time he became ill."

Mr. McWhirter joined "The Geezer Group." whose membership included about 20 retired men who played golf three times a week at Forest Hills. They drew names from a hat to form teams and compete against one another.

College football also was close to Mr. McWhirter's heart. His son said he spent many Saturday afternoons watching football on television, especially his alma mater, Auburn University.

A diagnosis of terminal lung cancer was Mr. McWhirter's toughest and last battle. His son said he had never realized the degree of strength his father had until he became ill.

"He never complained and kept a positive attitude up until the last minute of his life," his son said. "Never once did he do anything to make someone feel sorry for him."

Other survivors include his wife, Dorothy B. McWhirter; a daughter, Cathy M. Smith, of Evans; and two grandchildren.

Rebecca A. Smith at (706) 823-3708 or rebecca.smith@augustachronicle.com.


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