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The Passing Of Congresswoman Bono Mack’S Father Clay Westerfield Whitaker, M.D.

Rep. David Dreier

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Madam Speaker, it is with great sadness we share the news of the passing of Clay Westerfield Whitaker, M.D., father of Representative Mary Bono Mack, on May 13th after a long and valiant battle with prostate cancer. It was an honor to have known Dr. Whitaker and it is a privilege to serve with Congresswoman Bono Mack who is a testament and tribute to her father. From the talks I had with Dr. Whitaker, I know how proud he was of her great work.

Born in Greenville, Kentucky on April 17, 1924, Whitaker was the son of Eva Nell Hunt Whitaker and Levi Whitaker. The youngest of six siblings, all of whom preceded him in death, he was only five years old when his father, a physician, died at the age of thirty. Whitaker's mother, now a single parent, worked hard to make ends meet during the years of the Great Depression. When speaking of those years, Whitaker often said, ``We didn't think we were poor; we just didn't have any money.'' His mother understood the importance of a good education, and along with his sisters, he was admitted to Berea College in Kentucky. At Berea, he met the love of his life, Karen Lee Taylor. Together, they enjoyed music and an active campus life until his college education was interrupted when he entered the Army Air Corps during WWII. Assigned to the 8th Air Force, 95th Bomb Group, 334th Squadron stationed in Horham, England, Whitaker served as a B-17 waist gunner and flew 19 missions over Germany. After victory had been achieved, Whitaker wrote to his college sweetheart asking for her hand in marriage when he returned to Berea College.

Upon returning home, Whitaker was greeted at the train station by his sister and future bride, Karen. As he stepped off the train, his sister informed him that his wedding was scheduled for the very next day, June 30, 1944. So began a lifetime of mutual devotion. Whitaker completed his college education at Berea with a degree in chemistry and applied to Western Reserve medical school where he earned his M.D. in otolaryngology (ear, nose & throat) and then set-up his medical practice in Cleveland, Ohio. While living in Cleveland, he and Karen had four children, Stephen, David, Katherine and Mary.

In 1963, Whitaker moved the family west to Los Angeles where he accepted a position as co-chair of the ENT department at L.A. County--USC Medical Center. As professor of ENT, he remained at USC until 1983 when he moved to Asheville, North Carolina, to chair the ENT department at the VA hospital and establish an ENT program at that facility for Duke University. He held that position until his retirement from the practice of medicine.

Whitaker loved the outdoors, especially hiking, camping and the Land Rovers that transported him to the backcountry. He loved classical music, the arts, sciences, literature, cars and vintage war planes. But most of all, he loved his family. Known by family and friends as a man of immense generosity and compassion, he was a remarkably selfless and humble individual. His quick wit and keen sense of humor enlivened many family and social gatherings, and he was deeply respected in the communities in which he lived.

Preceded in death by his beloved Karen, Whitaker is survived by his four children, Stephen Whitaker and his wife, Teri, of Bruceville, Indiana; David Whitaker and his wife, Carol, of Sealy, Texas; Katherine Whitaker of Asheville, North Carolina; and Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack of Palm Springs, California, and her husband, Congressman Connie Mack. He is also survived by eight grandchildren, Laura Kenney and her husband, Doug; Daniel and Christopher Whitaker, Cameron and Ian Whitaker, Teresa Shuford, and Chesare and Chianna Bono, and one great grandson, Thomas Kenney.

Our deepest condolences go out to our colleague Mary Bono Mack and the entire Whitaker family.