HUDSON, Mich. - Charles H. Whittern, 66, a self-employed businessman who taught in Lenawee County schools, constructed homes, fished for crabs in Alaska, and later returned to Michigan, died at his home in Hudson on Friday from colon cancer.
He was born Aug. 3, 1944, in Peru, Ind., to C. Keith and Helen Whittern.
His father, a Methodist minister, moved the family to Unalaska, Alaska, to serve as missionaries near Dutch Harbor, said his mother, Helen Whittern.
The family lived there nearly nine years.
But on Oct. 1, 1957, his father and baby brother, Quentin, died when their skiff overturned in rough seas. Charles Whittern was 14 at the time.
Soon thereafter, the family moved to Prattville, Mich., where his mother returned to college for a master's degree in education.
Mr. Whittern graduated from Waldron High School in 1962.
Prior to graduating from Adrian College in 1966, he began teaching math and physics in the Morenci school system.
He later taught in Adrian High School.
"He really challenged his students," his wife, Sherrill Whittern, said.
Mr. Whittern was gifted with his hands and could fix many things.
When he turned 13, his father gave him a disabled pickup truck, which he tore apart and got running again, Mrs. Whittern said.
When he was 16, after his return to Michigan, he helped construct a home for his mother, the first of 17 homes he would build as a self-employed contractor.
By the early 1970s he had quit teaching and became a full-time contractor in the Hudson area, his wife said.
But the call of Alaska sent him back to that state, where he became a crew member on a crab boat.
He worked his way to captain, but in the early 1980s he quit and joined his brother, Coe, to manage a building supply firm in Alaska for three years.
He returned to Michigan in 1990 and opened Precision Cartridge Services, which refilled and sold ink cartridges for printers.
Mrs. Whittern, a single mother at the time, said she met her future husband in 1991. At that time, his first marriage had dissolved.
Sherrill and Charles were married in 1995. He had a son and daughter by his first marriage and she had three daughters.
She assisted her husband in the printer-cartridge business.
He became skilled at troubleshooting problems with printers and computers and invented devices that improved printer cartridges, she said.
His free time was spent on projects involving research and printers.
He was an avid fisherman and returned to Alaska to fish for salmon.
At the time of his death he was building a ranch-style house that would have a separate area for his mother.
Surviving are his wife, Sherrill, mother, Helen, son, Keith, daughter, Dr. Shawn Arbor, stepdaughters, Ruth Halsey, Naomi Petainen, and Hannah Robey, sister, Persenia Whittern, brother, Coe Whittern, and three grandchildren.
Visitation will be from 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at Eagle Funeral Home, Hudson. The funeral will be at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Prattville Community Church.
The family suggests tributes to the Prattville Community Church.
Contact: Jim Sielicki at: