- [S106] The Mountain Press, 10 Dec 2004.
GATLINBURG - Whether they were on duty or off, members of the Gatlinburg Fire Department turned out Tuesday to dedicate a memorial garden to a fallen member of their fire department family.
Luther Whaley, 46, was senior fire inspector at the fire department headquarters on Highway 321 East Parkway when he died March 1 of natural causes.
In memory of Whaley, a stone bearing the words "Luther Clell Whaley Memorial Garden. Dedicated to the memory of Senior Fire Inspector Luther Whaley and his devotion to the fire service and our community" was placed in the memorial garden at the fire department headquarters.
Whaley was a much-loved and well-respected member of the fire department, and his death deeply affected the city's firefighters, according to Fire Chief Gary West.
"Luther was very supportive of me when I became chief, even though Luther had also wanted the position," West said. "Luther and I clicked, and we became best friends. He was real close to me."
Gatlinburg City Commission members had suggested that the fire department do something to memorialize Whaley, and according to West, the first thought was to do something at the new Reagan Drive Firehall.
"But Luther spent his time here at headquarters, and he was the one who had designed and built the garden after the death of former Fire Chief Clell Ogle," said West. "We felt putting a memorial to Luther in this garden was more appropriate."
Whaley's wife, Terry, said, "I think he would be so honored. He was proud of this garden, and it's really special that (the firefighters) thought this much of him."
West said Whaley was known for taking care of the garden and often brought flowers from home to put into it.
West went on to say that firefighters from all over the country who are vacationing in Gatlinburg often walk through the garden and ask questions about it.
- [S23] Atchley Funeral Home, (http://www.atchleyfuneralhome.com/), 1 Mar 2004.
Luther Clell Whaley
February 22, 1958 - March 01, 2004
Birthplace: Sevier County, Tennessee
Resided In: Sevierville, Tennessee USA
Visitation: March 03, 2004
Service: March 04, 2004
Cemetery: Shady Grove Cemetery
Luther Clell Whaley, age 46, of Sevierville, passed away Monday, March 1, 2004. He attended Laurel Branch Baptist Church where he loved Rev. Ben Whitted’s sermons. Luther served 24 years as volunteer fireman and Chief Fire Inspector after being introduced to the Gatlinburg Fire Department by his late uncle Clell Ogle, former Fire Chief of Gatlinburg. He was loved by many for his sense of humor and easygoing nature. Though he enjoyed hunting and fishing, he cherished time spent with his family above all else.
He was preceded in death by his father Laymon Whaley and brother, Wade Whaley.
Wife: Terry Carr Whaley
Children: Luther Levi and Sarah Michelle Whaley
Mother: Louise Metcalf Whaley
Father- and mother-in-law: Jess and Henrietta Carr
Brothers and sisters and their spouses: Virginia and Robert Graves, Gayle Whaley, Jim Whaley, Becky and Gary Carr, Allen Whaley
Brothers- and sisters-in-law and their spouses: Mona and Ralph Maples, Stanley and Loretta Carr, Roma and Eddie Tinker, Larry and Brenda Carr, Brenda and Jack Laws, Dana and Susan Carr, Vickie King, Jeffrey and Laura Carr
Many aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins
Extended family of the Gatlinburg Fire Department
Funeral service 2 PM Thursday in the West Chapel of Atchley Funeral Home with Rev. Ben Whitted, Rev. Melvin Carr, and Rev. Lee Carr officiating. Interment will follow in Shady Grove Cemetery. The family will receive friends 6-9 PM Wednesday at Atchley Funeral Home, Sevierville. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Laurel Branch Baptist Church Building Fund, c/o Gary Carr, 3027 Old Happy Hollow Road, Sevierville, 37876. (www.atchleyfuneralhome.com)
- [S106] The Mountain Press, 3 Mar 2004.
GATLINBURG - The Gatlinburg Fire Department Memorial Garden originally dedicated in memory of a former fire chief became a source of solace Monday for firefighters mourning the loss of a longtime department member.
Senior Fire Inspector Luther Whaley, 46, who died Sunday night of a heart attack, had made upkeep of the garden his personal project because the garden was dedicated to his uncle, Clell Ogle.
On Monday, Whaley's saddened co-workers spent the day raking debris, pulling weeds and polishing the bell mounted in the garden.
"He was one of my best friends," said Fire Chief Gary West. "He was a very kind person and very concerned about the community and the fire department, but most of all he loved his family and put his family first on everything."
A 1977 graduate of Gatlinburg-Pittman High, Whaley had been with the fire department nearly 22 years and became fire inspector in 1986. Between 1982 and 2003, Whaley took dozens of medical, fire, training and management courses.
As senior fire inspector, Whaley held the rank of captain and according to West, his job was to oversee the inspection and fire prevention bureaus of the fire department.
"Most of all, he was the supervisor that oversaw that division of the fire department, which made him a key player in my management staff and a key player here at the fire department," said West.
Kenneth Ogle, a fire inspector and fire investigator, characterized Whaley as a "real good friend" of his and someone with whom he had had a "lot of good laughs" through the 25 years he had known him. Ogle especially remembered the humorous songs and jokes Whaley made up.
"He had a song he made up about a year ago called 'Coats of Many Colors' that he copied off Dolly Parton because the fire department changed the color of the coats from navy to red and back to navy. We recently went through a hazmat school and he made up a song about learning to be a hazmat tech that was very funny and cute," said Ogle, going on to say Whaley was a "fine fellow who liked inspection work and took it to heart because he wanted to make Gatlinburg, the county and the school system as safe as possible."
Captain/Training Officer Roger Ogle said Whaley was a "very personal kind of guy and had a real people personality. First and foremost, he was a very devoted family man - his family was always number one in his life."
Whaley's sense of humor was also noted by Roger Ogle, who said kidding around with people was something Whaley always did but pointed out that it was "always in a fun and humorous kind of way" never maliciously.
While Whaley's ability to turn anything into a joke was notable, Roger Ogle said, "He was a very knowledgeable and highly respected servant to the community. He took his job very seriously and always felt in everything he did that public safety was his highest priority."
On a personal level, Roger Ogle had difficulty controlling his emotion when he said, "To me, he was like the brother I never had - I could confide or talk to him about anything, whether of a professional or personal nature."
Although West said he could recall hundreds of stories about Whaley, he said he could not relay they them "because I would cry. Today I'm not good with words at all."
Ralph Ramsey, who also serves on the fire department, was too emotional over Whaley's loss to convey his thoughts in person, choosing instead to write them down and fax them.
"When we talked, Luther would always let you know his family was always in his thoughts, and then came work.
"Luther was very knowledgeable about fire prevention and protection systems. When issues came up, he was there backing you up because he believed very strongly in protecting lives and property," wrote Ramsey.
Humor was one of the things Ramsey also mentioned about Whaley, saying, "On days when you thought things were at their worst, you could count on him to put a grin on your face and lighten your heart."
City Manager Cindy Cameron Ogle, who had known Whaley since he joined the fire department, said, "It's a very sad day for the city. This city is a big family in many respects, so we've lost a member of our family. I hate it for the fire department and his family in particular. My thoughts, prayers and sympathies are very much with his family and the fire department."
Ramsey best summed up everyone's feelings of friendship and loss when he wrote, "Our community and department have suffered a terrible loss, but we can count on a little something of Luther to always be with us in our hearts and our memories."