TEMPERANCE -- Paul Whitman, founder of the former Whitman Ford dealership, who was a strong community supporter and philanthropist, died of cancer Sunday in Ebeid Hospice Residence, Sylvania. He was 89.
Mr. Whitman got his start in the auto business in 1950 when he and his late father, John, obtained the Ford franchise for southern Monroe County after Cousino Motor Sales in Erie closed.
The Whitmans opened the dealership in a storefront on Lewis Avenue in downtown Temperance and moved a year later to a new building on the north edge of the community. It operated there until 1977, when the family-owned dealership moved south on Lewis near Sterns Road into a new 24,000-square foot building.
A devout Christian, Mr. Whitman believed he was called by God to sell vehicles, his son, the Rev. Lee Whitman, said. "Because of his faith, he felt that God had called him into being a Christian businessman. He used the money that God gave him to further God's Kingdom. He did that all of his life," said Mr. Whitman, who left the dealership in 1984 for the ministry.
Mr. Whitman retired in 1994 but stayed a shareholder in Whitman Ford Co. The business closed in April, 2011.
Jon Whitman, who became president after his father retired, said the firm was among the 10 largest Ford fleet dealerships in the nation. "Many people have told us that they are sorry that we closed. They can't find anyone else like us to do business with."
A Bedford Township native, Mr. Whitman attended Bedford Public Schools until high school, when the family moved to Arizona. He graduated in 1940 from a high school in Tucson.
He returned to Toledo and attended the University of Toledo, but World War II interrupted his studies. He enlisted in 1943 in the U.S. Navy, achieving the rank of captain on an amphibious landing craft that moved troops in the South Pacific. He graduated in 1947 from UT with a master's degree in business. He met the former Virginia Crim at UT, and they were married June 21, 1946.
The Whitmans were benefactors to charities and organizations in Bedford Township. The couple and their family gave $1 million in 2002 to build the Francis Family YMCA branch there. The facility is named for Mr. Whitman's twin sister, Pauline, and her husband, Raymond Francis. The aquatic center in the YMCA is named for Virginia Whitman.
The Whitmans also donated 10 acres on Lewis Avenue for construction in 1991 of the Whitman Center, a campus branch of Monroe County Community College.
Lee Whitman said his father supported Christian missionaries worldwide.
Surviving are his wife, Virginia; sons Jon and Lee; daughte, Mary Ann Stark; siste, Caroline Frautschi; nine grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.
Visitation is to be Wednesday from 7 to 9 p.m. and Thursday from 5 to 9 p.m. at the Michael W. Pawlak Funeral Home, 1640 Smith Rd., Temperance.
Services are to be at 10 a.m. Friday in BridgePoint Church, 9875 Lewis Ave., Temperance. The family suggests tributes to the church.
-- Mark Reiter