Earl James Whitbeck Jr.

VOORHEESVILLE — Earl James Whitbeck Jr. — a father with a big heart and a fierce work ethic — died on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020. He was 82.

A Voorheesville native, he had been living in Lynchburg, Virginia with his wife, Carol.

“The last few months of his time here on Earth were not easy. But in many ways I’m thankful his decline was swift and he’s now at peace,” wrote his son, Paul Whitbeck, in a tribute. “I don’t want to dwell on these past few months. This is about a man who lived a very good life.

“Born on the tail end  of the Great Depression in 1937, Dad didn’t grow up with a lot. But what he did grow up with was two parents who set an example for a work ethic like few today can understand or appreciate.

“They affectionately called him Jimmy. Dad was a paperboy starting in 1947, when he was 9, in upstate New York. My dad’s desire to make a contribution or stand on his own would not be deterred by the sweltering humidity of a Voorheesville summer, or the frigid temperatures and deep drifts of snow fed by a Nor’easter.

“He always pressed on because he had a job to do. That’s how he always lived — how he worked.  Other than his parents’ own example, I was never sure what the driving force was behind dad’s tenacious work ethic. Maybe it was just pure survival, but it was fierce.

“Something people may not know, but Dad was a racer, a true stock car wheelman in the early days of the 1950s NASCAR. All over the local ‘Saturday Night’ short tracks of the Northeast, #95 Jr. made a damn impressive name for himself. Whether he was driving the Purple People Eater or Woody the Woodpecker, when Dad was on the track, odds were pretty good a trophy was coming home.

“Dad proudly served his country in the United States Coast Guard, where he honed his hands-on mechanical skills and sowed the roots of becoming a lifetime ‘do it yourselfer’ before DIY-ing was even a thing.

“Dad’s professional career was taxing but he was passionate about it. He spent over 50 years selling all types of food and representing brands all over the East Coast. The food-service industry was his  passion. Whatever you’ve eaten or drank at a restaurant, more than likely, Dad sold it at one time or another. And he loved every minute and every mile of it.

“Over his lifetime he worked — and he dreamed — and he failed — and he succeeded. Sometimes the misses weighed on him, but I believe he knew deep down he did it right more times than not.

“He was the son of Earl James Sr. and Mary; he was the loving husband of Carol; an amazing father to Terry and Paul; a doting grandfather to Jason, Haley, Jenna, and Zachary; and an endearing father-in-law to Debbie.

“He was also a caring uncle, cousin, nephew, son-in-law, and brother-in-law. A friend to more than I can list and more than he probably ever realized.

“He was a true caregiver, and he was a man I’m proud to call Dad. We didn’t always agree. But he was always quick to end a disagreement and he was never afraid to say, ‘I love you.’

“His heart was bigger than he preferred to let on — but I knew it. I felt it. I will always feel it.

“Rest easy, Dad — yours was a life well lived.”

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