OSWEGO — James “Big Jim” Willhite, 87, of Oswego passed away Monday, March 4, 2019, at his home, surrounded by loved ones.
Jim was born Nov. 28, 1931, in Wyanet to the late Garland and Doris (Marshall) Willhite. He was a graduate of Princeton High School, Class of 1950. He joined the U.S. Marine Corps, serving from 1951 to 1955. He was a veteran of the Korean War. He was stationed on the front lines, in Tent City on the 38th Parallel. After being honorably discharged, he attended Western Illinois University and then moved to Chicago. While living in Chicago, he found his love of music. He was able to see many of the greats in small clubs in downtown Chicago, such as Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday, just to name a few. Once he returned home to Princeton to work on the family farm, he met and married the late Doris Lenihan of Princeton on Sept. 6, 1960.
He owned Schwingle’s Sales and Services, before going to work for a Bureau County school district, wearing many hats working at the schools, from custodian to bus driver. He also worked at Pioneer Seed Corn seasonally, celebrating his 25th year working for them in 2017. After retirement, he worked at Eagle Foods, until they closed in September of 2003.
He enjoyed reading a good book and collecting antiques. You could often find him at an antique shop or estate sale on weekends, or hanging out with friends at the P.I. Big Jim enjoyed being involved in the community. He was a jack-of-all-trades and did many things, from painting houses to working on the farm. He loved to do crossword puzzles and sudoku challenges, but found his greatest joy in spending time with his grandchildren.
Jim is survived by his two daughters, Jennifer Hand of Downers Grove and Jamison Glinski of Princeton; two granddaughters, Kimberly (Justin) Hand-Harris of Oswego and Kennedy Hand of Downers Grove; two grandsons, Austin (Amanda) Glinski of Bloomington and Micah Glinski of Denver, Colo.; two great-grandchildren, Milo Harris and Veda Harris of Oswego; one stepson, Joe (Mary) Weller of Elgin; a special surrogate son, John (Lori) Engstrom of Wyanet; one stepgranddaughter, Michele (Carlos) Vaca of Mundelein; and one sister, Betty Jean (Arnold) Johnson of Pahrump, Nev.; as well as many nieces, nephews and cousins.
He was preceded in death by his parents; his wife, Doris Willhite; and four sisters, Evelyn Willhite, Shirley Thompson, Patricia Manning and Marian Houch.
The family will receive friends from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, March 23, at the Norberg Memorial Home in Princeton. A funeral service will follow at noon with the Rev. Leon McClimans officiating. A graveside service will follow the service at Elm Lawn Memorial Park in Princeton.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be directed to the family for charitable distribution.
Online condolences may be left at www.norbergfh.com.