Noel Wilkerson Holmes
This is a story not of a death but of a life well-lived. Larger than life. Helluva man. An original. Friend to all. They broke the mold. Arth Whitley certainly experienced a life well-lived and was well-loved during his 84 years on earth. He left this world doing what he loved best spending his last Saturday working on his ranch.
Fun, funny, fair, a favorite, good and kind with an uplifting hearty laughter are descriptions freely associated with his memory. His 30-year combined career as teacher, coach and principal brought him in close contact with thousands of impressionable youth and hundreds of teachers in Atascosa County. Oh, what an impression he made. On the Facebook site “Friends of Pleasanton High School,” Dotty Gibson Meredith posted his obituary and several dozens of his former students and teachers posted sweet and funny sentiments. Meredith shared a comment from one of her 1966 classmates that shows what a rare combination of personality Whitley embodied:
“Even though he tried to remove my butt from my body I still liked him a lot and always enjoyed being around him. We will try to go the funeral,” said this former student. Meredith commented, “After 55 years, he hasn’t forgotten or held a grudge.” A rare combination indeed to be a paddle packing principal who is also a student’s “pal”.
Barbara Peeler of Jourdanton recalled a funny story. “So, my door bell rings. I cannot get to the door. Who else other than Arth Whitley would come across the yard to the bathroom window and holler for me to open my door,” said Peeler. “I will miss him.”
Another prominent local man who prefers to stay unnamed but swears this to be true told an Arth tale. In high school, he seriously wrecked his truck while having fun on a back road. He was scared to death to go home so he went to Arth who was his “Godfather”. Arth drives him home. Walks him into the boy’s house and asks him where his parent’s bedroom is. Arth then marches down the hall, flips on the lights and says, “Hey, you guys wake up. Your son had a wreck and is scared to tell you. Let’s get this talked out.” The “son” said he will never forget the look on his parent’s face. Bet your bottom dollar that those parents never forgot that moment either.
Quotes from teachers echoed sweet fondness, laughable moments and admiration. “He was my first principal when I began my teaching career here,” said Brenda Samson. “He was super kind. I loved how he always supported his teachers. He was an avid reader. Always had a Zane Grey paperback in his desk. I believe he would take a book to monthly school board meetings. He was a true original! I know he will be so missed by so many.”
Whitley was called “Cookie” by his mother, Delma Whitley Tomblin. Many say Arth was the spitting image of his mother and she is where he got his “spunk”. She spent her final years at Argent Court and the Heights where Whitley was a frequent visitor. This spirited duo gained a new throng of admirers as they brightened the day with their big fun filled personalities.
He was married to the beautiful red head Annette Whitley for 64 years. He is the father of two locally well-loved daughters, Gwen Whitley and Karla (Whitley) Woerner. His “girls” loved and adored their big-hearted dad who they said had done so much for so many. For Whitley’s full obituary please see page 9B.