WHITAKER, Bill and Alice

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WHITAKER, Bill ( -1992), and his wife, Alice Marie Whitaker (1919-1992) [SS#551-18-4335], (72), were killed in their Beechcraft 35 upon take off from Santa Catalina Island's Airport in the Sky on May 27, 1992.




In the News~

June 8, 1992 [Sausalito Marin Scope]: “Remembering the Whitakers. Sausalito's Bill and Alice Whitaker were killed on May 27 when their Beechcraft 35, departing Catalina and bound for Marin, crashed just after takeoff. Apparently a cloud wisp had obscured the top of a hill which they failed to clear by only nine feet. The Whitakers had been sailing at Catalina, one of several places where they kept a boat, a car and a condo ready for vacationing they enjoyed in their retirement.

Bill, an avid sailor all his life, was a native Sausalitan, raised in a home across from the seawall on Bridgeway. "He took to the water a the earliest possible age," says former neighbor and fellow sailor John Ford, who ought to know, since he remembers Bill at age 3. They both lived near the San Francisco Yacht Club, site today of Horizons restaurant, and, "As soon as he could walk across the street, he was over at the Club. He made rafts out of sticks of wood before he could swim; he'd crank up the engine on old Lange's boat; we rowed out to Richardson Bay and climbed the rigging of the Eli F. Whitney. Then he got a job polishing the brass on the Nam Sang, and, in 1939, graduated to Ace, the 'R' boat of the day. Quite something for a 13-year-old, foredeck on the Ace at the height of her racing career."

A few years later he had his own boat, a Mercury. These 18' sloops designed by Sausalito's Ernie Nunes were extremely popular with young racing sailors who built them from kits sold by Nunes. Bill, then a member of the Corinthian Yacht Club, owned Mercury #19, Rhythm, and raced against the group of youngsters who would found the Sausalito Yacht Club in 1942. He was a keenly competitive racer, out to win, which he often did. He was also noted for having great strength, doubtless helped along by foredeck work on the Ace, and for this reason was sought after as a crew member.

But, for all of them, the War intervened. Two weeks after he turned 17, Bill joined the Coast Guard, and spent the next three years stationed in "the most God-forsaken island in the Aleutian chain," where a small Coast Guard detachment maintained a radar station, the equivalent of today's early warning system.

He returned in 1946, and, forsaking the Corinthian Yacht Club for the Sausalito Yacht Club "because it had a hoist," joined in the year of the infamous "Mud Bowl" game. The older club members (all under age 22) challenged the new members to play football in an arena where wet mud from harbor dredging was being dumped. In those days the Bay came right up to the rear of the Bank of America, and their clubhouse was a little shack on pilings. Of course within moments both teams were covered in mud, including Whitaker, whose strength was apparently put to good use in football too. "It was part of the mystique" recalls Peter Mohler, "we knew it was gonna be sloppy."

In the 50s Bill raced Star Boats and Finns, and crewed for John Ford on the Sausalito Yacht Club's bid for the San Francisco Perpetual Challenge Trophy. They held on to that trophy, a prestigious one, for four consecutive years in the late 50s, no small accomplishment. In the late 50s Bill met, wooed and won Alice, and they began to build their home on property on Alexander Avenue that he had purchased — unwisely thought some people — "It went straight down the hill," recalls a friend, "we thought he was crazy...then he subdivided into lots, and then he didn't have to work any more..." The Whitakers built a lovely home which rambles down the hillside to a little dock where they kept a boat. Bill had a variety of careers, beginning as the young brass polisher and engine cranker, continuing with odd jobs around boats, a stint as a pilot boat deck hand, and in the printing business. In the 70s he had a lithography shop in Marinship. He had a commercial pilot's license, flew as flight engineer in "the last propeller era, had an aeronautical engineering degree, and was a member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary and the Naval Reserve. Alice was a sales executive at Livingston's, and is remembered for her style and fashion; "she wore the latest-latest clothes and always looked like a million dollars," said Andy Hobart. She was a founding member of the Sausalito Yacht Club Auxiliary in its beginnings in 1959.

Bill closed his printing shop when Alice retired, and together they enjoyed a unique lifestyle, centered around flying, sailing and tennis. They kept a car and a boat in three destinations, Catalina, Newport Beach, and Friday Harbor. "They'd fly in, hop in the car, and stay on the boat. He said that he could get a whole month's berth rent for the price of a night in a hotel," said Ford.

Other observations from the Whitakers; friends of well over 50 years... "He had a convertible, and wore this big old raccoon coat over a T-shirt, and we'd all oile in and go over to Tiburon where the boats were..." said Jim Enzensperger, and "He was very strong - we'd try to tease him into wrestling with Manuel Lino..."

"Alice was just one of those people that were walways up - she seemed to just float along, always looking smart, the center of attraction, and I never heard her say anything mean about anyone," said Sue Bigall, who added, "At least they were together. I don't think they'd have enjoyed life without one another."

A memorial service will be held at the Sausalito Yacht Club at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 24. Everyone is welcome, and the family has requested that any memorial contributions be made to Guide Dogs for the Blind, P.O. Box 151200, San Rafael, 94915.”