Francis (Frank) Joseph Whitman, 91, of L'Anse died peacefully at Baraga County Memorial Hospital with his family by his side on Friday afternoon. He was born August 14, 1918 in Chicago, Illinois, and was the son of the late Jacob Peter and Gertrude Gangolf Wittmann. Frank graduated from Boyne Falls High School where he was an excellent basketball player and also a recognized Michigan Golden Gloves boxing champion. He was selected as first alternate to Annapolis Point Military academy.
Following high school, and due to the Depression, Frank was initially employed by the Civilian Conservation Corps but then found employment at a Detroit Block Factory where he secured enough capitol to build and open a Boyne City restaurant, The Rainbow Gardens. Frank was drafted in 1941 and proudly served in WWII in the First Infantry Division. He fought in the invasions of North Africa and Sicily. On D Day, Frank landed on Omaha Beach in the third wave of troops and miraculously survived without a scratch after his boat was hit and sunk on the way in. Following this, Frank fought in many major battles in Europe including the Battle of the Bulge. At the end of the war he was on the edge of the Czechoslovakian border and returned to the States after having been away from home for five years. In his later years he would commemorate his survival of D Day by buying breakfast every June 6th for friends, family and all present at the Night Owl Diner in L'Anse.
Following his honorable discharge Frank returned to Boyne Falls and married his high school sweetheart Margaret Zelinski, who had waited for him through the years of the war. Together they moved to L'Anse, Michigan where Frank began managing the Whirl-I-Gig Dance Hall, eventually becoming owner, and later adding a bowling alley to the operation; this business remains in the family today. Frank also learned the trade of bricklaying, and founded Whitman & Sons Construction Company in 1947, which built many of the commercial buildings that currently exist in L'Anse. Frank remained active and even continued brick laying well into his 80s, assisting his sons on their construction projects. He also donated his skills as a stonemason to build numerous monuments in the Village of L'Anse and his craftsmanship is most prominently displayed on the sandstone welcome sign as you enter the village. In 1968 he went into partnership with six other L'Anse businessmen forming Pequaming Properties Inc and purchased Henry Ford's entire historic Pequaming village including Henry Ford's summer home, The Bungalow. They subsequently developed and subdivided the entire property.
Frank was an avid and accomplished hunter, fisherman and trapper. He was an expert fly fisherman and his many trophy deer racks still adorn the walls of the Whirl-I-Gig. Frank spent his winters hunting coyote and bobcat with his hunting dogs and was a beekeeper in the summers, a hobby he maintained up until the last years of his life. He had an excellent sense of humor and enjoyed telling stories. He particularly enjoyed lively discussions about politics.
Frank served numerous terms on the L'Anse Village council and continued to serve until a few years ago. He was also the Building Inspector for the Village of L'Anse. Frank was a member of the Ottawa Sportsmen's Club, the Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Union and the U.P. Trappers Association.
Frank was preceded in death by his loving wife Margaret, his brother John Whitman, his sister Marge Hills and his grandson Andrew. He is survived by his eight children, Frances (Greg Sides), Michael (Rosa), Daniel (Theresia), Evelyn (Dale Aho), Keith (Annette), David (Elaine), Yvonne (James Andersen), and Ronald (Daisy) as well as his thirteen grandchildren, Amy, Jacqui, Ana, Jourdan, Jessica, Jackie, Abe, Hannah, Zachary, Tovah, Christian, Jack, Michael, Neil, Paul and Emily and one great granddaughter, Bashalena Marie. He is also survived by his brother Dr. Sam (Becky) Carson and sisters Anna (Frank) Shaler and Molly (Jerry) Collins. The family would like to express their sincere appreciation to the staff of the Baraga County Memorial Hospital for their exceptional care of Frank and the kindnesses they extended to Frank and his family. In addition they would also like to thank the Baraga County Home Care and physical therapy staff.
Visitation will be held on Monday, Nov. 30th from 5-8 pm at the Jacobson Funeral Home with the Baraga County Area Veterans conducting military rites at 7:00 pm under the direction of the American Legion Post #444. The funeral mass will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 1st at 11:00 AM at Sacred Heart Church in L'Anse with visitation one hour prior to the service at the church. Fr. John Longbucco will officiate. Burial will be in the Pequaming Cemetery. The Jacobson Funeral Home in L'Anse is assisting the family.
Friends may sign Frank's guest book or send condolences at www.jacobsonfuneralhome.com