George celebrated his 97th birthday at
MHHCC-Long Term Unit, March 25, 2003
GEORGE WHIPKEY - Inspiring Man Died In 2004 at Age 98
By Ann Richards 2004
George Whipkey is a man who has lived with many problems, but he has overcome them. An early illness, probably polio, left him crippled and having to walk with a cane, but he has lived a fairly normal life, doing most things the rest of us do. But in recent years, as he grew older, he began to use crutches, or a walker to get around. He has never stopped going to church, thanks to some faithful people who stop by to take him with them. He now wears a shoe which is built up so that he can walk.
Stopping by to talk with George, this writer thought perhaps nobody was home, but finding the front door open, went on in. He was in the kitchen eating supper. He says that he does his own cooking most of the time.
George is known to many of us here in Calhoun County and is happy to have someone stop in just to talk, where he lives at Pleasant Hill. Cataracts have dimmed his eyesight, but he hopes surgery will restore it. He has recovered from surgery after falling last year and breaking his hip. When he fell, people thought this might be the last of him, but such is not the case.
Telling about his time in the hospital, George said that he felt at home there, because people talked to him. "I varnished a magazine rack and some corner shelves. One day they had me play dominoes with a woman and I beat her two or three times. I got home just before the big snowstorm.
They told me at the hospital I'd need oxygen for the rest of my life, but I don't. I just raise my window a little so I can get fresh air. I'm not much to go to doctors." Laughing, as he spoke, he said, "When I got home, someone asked me if my sisters were going to come and help me. I told them, 'Lord, no' I'm in better shape than either one of them.' I don't have an ache or pain."
Commenting on the recent snowstorm, he said he got along fine. Then he told of the first big snow he remembered in 1942. "I think the next one was in 1951. We lived at Bull Fork in Gilmer County. That time the store owner at Burnt House brought chicken feed to us on a tractor."
George has spent much of his life teaching shaped notes to people in Calhoun, Gilmer, Wirt, Wood, Doddridge and Hampshire Counties. "I started teaching in 1935. I taught in Doddridge County where the school board let me ride the school bus to New Milton. I taught singing school at New Milton Methodist Church.
From there I went to Dutchman, Hartley, Leading Creek, Prosperity, White Pine, Tanner and all over Gilmer County. One time I taught for $1 a night. I worked up to $65 for ten nights of teaching. The people set the price themselves. Someone told me I came the nearest to pitching without a musical instrument of anybody they ever heard. The good Lord gave me that talent and He always made a way for me. I always loved to teach the shaped notes."
George got out some music with shaped notes and explained how to remember them. "Do is shaped like a house roof. Ra is round underneath and flat on top. Me is diamond shaped. Fa is pendant shaped. So is egg shaped. La looks like a flag and Te looks like a hornet's nest." Laughing at the thought of songs he used in sing school, he continued, "one of the songs I used to teach shaped notes was, Don't Talk Unless You Have Something To Say.
In answer to the question about what else he has done in life, George said that he bought his first store in 1942 at Nobe from John Kight. "I never lost a dollar there. I gave charge accounts. I always got my money. People aren't all like that now.
I always dealt with people straight as I could. I never worried about money and I never made big money. But, Alta and I always had enough. (Alta is George's wife, now deceased.) I've been a store keeper, farmer, music teacher and rabbit hunter." (the people who know George may remember his rabbit Beagles.)
After reflecting for a moment, he said, "If you live a normal life, you'll see trouble. I can tell you that. But the good Lord never let me down. I'll be 88 March 25th. When my time comes, I'll go. Until then I'm content. I've lived a good life."
By this time it had grown dark outside and was time to go. However, he said he could talk as late as we wanted. "I wouldn't go to bed nearly as soon as I do if I could stay up and talk. I wish people would stop by and stay an hour or two."
George has a lifetime of experiences to tell about and one is sure to be entertained.