John Arnold Whitehead, a life-long resident of Laurel, MD until a recent move to Ocean Pines, MD, died May 1, 2019 at home at the age of 91. He was born in Laurel on June 18, 1927 on his parent’s farm and grew up with five siblings, Bill, Jim, Andy, Melvin and a beloved sister, Dorothy, in a home without electricity or running water. There was a Model A in the barn along with two horse buggies. Getting a radio was a major family event.
John helped on the farm, sweated on the B&O railroad, and later worked for many years as a researcher for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He served in World War II, first as a civilian high school student running scrap drives on the home front, and then, after graduation, as a Corporal in the U.S. Army serving in Germany and Austria. He became a Life member of the American Legion, Post 60, of Laurel, MD.
While overseas, John was exchanging letters with Rose Brown, the pretty sister-in-law of one of his army buddies (John Hofmann who had married Rose’s sister, Shirley). They got to know each other through this wartime correspondence, and, to quote John, he “knew that Rose was the girl for me.” They were married in 1949 at St. Mary’s Church in Laurel.
John was known for many things like making his own blackberry wine, growing vegetables and flowers in his gardens and always building something in his woodshop. He and Rose traveled the country, went on camping trips with their extended family and spent endless hours laughing around the card table with family and friends. One of the great joys of John’s life was hosting “music” in his basement every Saturday night for decades. John played the fiddle, his son Lenny was on the mandolin, and any friends and family with instruments and a taste for beer rounded out their weekly miniature bluegrass festivals.
John was quick to laugh, ready to help anyone who needed it, and had a kind word or amusing anecdote for any situation. He is survived and greatly missed by his wife of 70 years, Rose; his son, Lenny Whitehead and wife Patty; his daughter, Sandy Galloway and husband Doug; his grandchildren, Matthew Whitehead, Laura Arenella, Stephanie McAlister and Michael McAlister; and his great-granddaughters, Paige and Brynn Arenella and Reese McAlister Thompson; and his sister, Dorothy Hedrick and her husband Bill. Visitation will be held at Donaldson’s Funeral Home at 313 Talbott Avenue, Laurel, Maryland on Friday, May 10th from 2 p.m to 4 p.m and from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. A memorial mass will be held at St. Mary’s of the Mills Catholic Church at 114 St. Mary’s Place, Laurel, MD on Monday, May 13th at 11:30 a.m.
The Ocean City Elks Club honored John and other local WWII vets with banners that are flying on the boardwalk all summer. John’s banner is near N. Division St. Be sure to give him a salute when you go to the beach this summer.
Donations in lieu of flowers may be made in his memory to Coastal Hospice, P.O. Box 1733, Salisbury, MD 21802.