ForeverMissed
Linda Joan Whitley, loving mother of two and surrogate mother to so many, passed away at age 71, on Wednesday, January 13, 2021, due to complications from COVID-19. Linda was born on November 24, 1949 in St. Louis, Missouri to Edith Marie Turnbull and John Alfred Whitley.

Linda graduated from Potosi High School in 1968, moved to St. Louis, Missouri and began working for Ford Motor Company where she worked for almost 30 years. She worked on the assembly line for about 8 years, then served as the Employee Assistance Plan (EAP) representative for 15 years before she became one of the first women at Ford to go into the skilled trades and worked as a toolmaker for the last 7 years of her tenure at Ford Motor Company. As an EAP representative, she helped hundreds of people deal with addiction and other mental health issues and made a lasting impression on the lives of so many people. She came to love her work in the skilled trades, learning complex math so she could create tools and machine parts. Throughout her career, she was an active member and leader of the United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 325, as well as the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW) chapter in St. Louis, Missouri. Later in life, when she moved back to her hometown of Potosi, Missouri, she became active with the Washington County Democrats, finding ways to improve the lives of everyone around her. She also sold Mary Kay cosmetics for many years because she believed in the importance of skin care. 

Linda was a dedicated and loving human being who touched the lives of so many people and was known as a force for good in the world. She stood up against racism, sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia and fought for justice by showing up for picket lines, strike support, social and racial justice rallies, and anti-war protests. She was an inspiration to all with her kindness, determination and her love for people. She touched everyone she met with her boundless energy and dedication to “Do The Right Thing.”

Linda’s love and support for her family had no bounds. She taught her nieces, nephews, children, grandchildren and great grandchildren to love reading and books, to pursue their education and to “be the change you wish to see in the world.” Not only did she teach them how to fight sexism and racism, but she showed them by example what a strong and capable anti-racist white woman could accomplish. She loved music and she loved to dance. She loved to walk and go thrift-shopping, always on the lookout for little gifts for her family. But mostly, she loved to be with her family and friends, especially her sisters, telling stories, dancing and laughing. 

Linda is preceded in death by her mother, Edith, and her father, John. She is survived by three sisters, Lauren, Barbara (Curt) and Alison (Donnie), two brothers, John Lee (Barb) and Alan, her two daughters, Renda and Vanya (Dina), two grandsons, Tony (Crystal) and Milo, seven great-grandchildren, Kaydence, Tristan, Lily, Leif, Amanda, Reaghan and Oliver and countless nieces and nephews. Her vibrance, passion for helping the world and love for humanity will be sorely missed by so many.

When it is safe to gather in large numbers, the family will hold a memorial service. At this time, please include comments, stories, videos and pictures on Linda’s virtual memorial site: https://www.forevermissed.com/linda-joan-whitley (this site!). 

In lieu of flowers, please make a donation to Women at Risk International (an organization that fights against human trafficking): https://warinternational.org/. Alternatively, she would be happy if you donate to your local homeless shelter or food bank. 



Posted by Roz Sherman Voellinger on January 31, 2021
Linda has left the world and all who have been fortunate to have crossed paths with her, in a better place. I met Lin in 1978 through the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW) when she was a UAW Local 325 member at Ford. Over the 40+ years, I came to see that deeply rooted in Linda was her compassion and passion to help guide and support every person to pursue their path to a healthy, fulfilling life, as well as her drive to achieve fairness and justice for all. She had an incredible ability to be comfortable and shine in so many diverse spaces, from skilled trades to EAP to Mary Kay, from Ferguson to Potosi, from personal confidant to leader. Linda saw in every individual, a unique story complete with flaws and beauty. You are clearly gone too soon, dear friend and sister, but you have lived a life of fullness and love for your cherished family, friends and humankind.
Posted by Dee Osemeno on January 25, 2021
My sincere condolences to Aunty Lin's family. Loosing a loved one is heartbreaking and confusing, I can only imagine the pain felt by her dear family but I know that God understands and he will help you heal. Infact at Isaiah 25vs 8 God promises to 'swallow up death forever'. I pray that Jehovah gives you strength beyond what is normal.
Posted by Rachel McEwen on January 23, 2021
When I was young, Aunt Lin never failed to tell me to put my seatbelt on. I can remember her saying , “ we’re not pulling out of this driveway until you get that seatbelt on”! She stood true to her word as she always did and we did not move until each of us had buckled up. This was in the 80s, wearing a seatbelt wasn’t a law and no one much considered it. Lin was head of her time.
Years later when I was almost grown. Seatbelts became the law and cars were equipped with an alert reminding you to put your seatbelt on. The first time I herd that sound coming from a new car, I said with delight and laughter “listen it’s a Lindie Dinger”! I think everyone in the family calls it that now maybe everyone in the whole world.  

Lin always told me things that would serve me In life. Wear your seatbelt, brush your teeth, don’t walk the streets by yourself in the dark, wear sun screen, take care of each other, get an education and believe in yourself because I believe in you.
She was one in a million. I will always cherish each moment I had with her. I’m so sad she is not here with us now but I will always be blessed to have to known her. I will try my best to teach my children the things she taught me in this way she will always be with us.
Posted by Trish Adkirson on January 20, 2021
This has taking me awhile to post this tribute about "My Aunt Lin" cause it doesn't seem real to me or that it was even possible for her to leave this world !!!

Not cause I'm being naive but because she was Aunt Lin the ever powerful strong, independent woman who I was blessed to Aunt Lin...

U see Lin didnt become my Aunt by blood or marriage. I started school and became friends with my lifetime friend Shalan which was Lin's niece and I knew that at that time thier was so much uncertainty and rough times going on in my friends life and her family was enduring such a hardship in the family. I was roughly 6 years old and my new friend was dealing with her mom fighting a battle with ovarian cancer and she was so strong looking back and way definitely for that age and she needed a friend to have her back and to be by her side during this tough time but even more if she would have to face such darker days ahead..... and this is where "my adoption" all began but while I could tell me and my new friend would be in each other's lives for such a long time and have been there for each other for over 33 years now and counting having each other's back for a lifetime I had no clue what I was gonna gain through this friendship so long ago.

I was scared I would be in the way and be more responsibility being one more young kid they had to worry about but I found out from the start I would never feel/ be treated that way ever !!! I learned very quickly that I had become part of a family with such outspoken, determined and strong women who made sure that you knew that so much was obtainable and not just for you to visit in your dreams but if you wanted it all you had to do was believe , put in your effort and hard work and you could have it ! Aunt Lin taught us how to stand up for our beliefs , what exactly teamwork was and how the team makes sure everyone is fairly treated and succeeds with each other and never to leave any of them behind. She taught me so much about family and how they dont all come with matching blood, skin or share a paper stating they are related but family is who is in your life and cares about you and is there for you during good times, bad times or times to celebrate together or just to make memories with each other being silly, laughing or whatever ur doing just knowing fun was being had by all !

She gave so many inspiration,motivation and desire to take on whatever tried to defeat us and I received such much more than I ever knew I would gain that day i rode the school bus home with my new friend for sure !!!

It had been a long while since I seen Aunt Lin but when she came to stay at her sisters house while they were out of town i got to see her but I was able to introduce my kids to my aunt it was just minutes if it even took that long for my twins and oldest daughter to begin calling her aunt too and she had such a big smile on her face and looking at them....I knew that they had felt those feelings and great vibes that I felt so many years before that I got from her and felt being around her and it was like they knew her forever and the way she made you feel , accepted you into her life and treated you that's exactly how long you felt like you had known this courageous woman who definitely showed us that we are all human deserve to been seen equal, treated fairly, given respect and dignity but she also had such great compassion to all knowing that we all are human beings who can or do screw up but I never seen her judge or be judgemental instead she wanted to be that person who could be there for another human life that needed her guidance , advice , opinions, knowledge or whatever she had to bring to the table to help ease their struggle and journey in whatever way she could help or show them they weren't alone and share her great strength due to her many fought obstacles she had to face during her career being a woman who decided to step up, out and take on a field not usually employment industries that woman seek or should I say sought out during that time period and how proud I am that someone I knew and has taught me so much about how to be the women that you want still but knowing that raising the bar to higher level or shattering them isn't impossible even if it's been unheard of til you break the mold and show them that we are intelligent, go-getters and that we have a mind and knowledge not just a pretty thing in high heels and cute fashion ware and that we as women are so much more of a force to be reckoned with and our strength and belief and so much great qualities that was taught, shared, instilled or she blessed me with in growing, molding me into will forever be in my heart, mind and soul and I will continue to pass it down to my daughter's so they continue to spread great knowledge, love,caring, sharing and just them learning to be a better human being and treating people like you would want to receive from others and only seeing them as people and what lies within their hearts and souls allowing us to see that unconditional love that so many in our world would benefit from knowing and experiencing and by passing down all these along with so many great qualities that was bestowed upon us by this wonderful woman who was called to her heavenly home way too soon but I know in my heart she felt our prayers, thoughts and strength we were all sending when she needed us to be the things she was for so many of us for so long when we couldn't be it or do it for ourselves and when you leave this place on earth to go to the next chapter of our lives it's not the riches, the materialistic things we have or held in our lives and we can't take anything of that stuff with us and people are only left with memories and the legacies we leave behind and my Aunt Lin made so many memories with so many along her way during her lifetime and the things she taught us is such a great part of a legacy that is totally priceless and something that we all could learn from for generations ahead and beyond

Aunt Lin will be missed greatly and never will be forgotten ever and I gained a family for life just by taking a school bus home with my friend !!!!!

She has made her mark here on earth and I have no doubt between looking down watching over us she will break tons of heavenly molds and continue on her journey helping people whenever and wherever she can !!!!!

Fly high
Posted by Bobbi Mifflin on January 19, 2021
It is so hard for me to describe Lin because she has been so many things to me. She was my second mother and took care of me when I was little. As my older sister she always gave me guidance and protection. As we grew up she and my other sisters became my best friends. Some of my best memories involve things I did with my sisters. Things like traveling, dancing, walking, swimming and many family adventures. But most of all lots and lots of laughing.

I also owe my life to Lin. I spent over three years fighting ovarian cancer and I wouldn’t be here if it hadn’t been for her. Not only did she take me and my daughter into her home, she treated my daughter like she was her own. She also took me to chemo treatments and stayed by my side until the drugs knocked me out. She did everything in her power to help me learn guided imagery and other ways to fight cancer. The doctors didn’t give me much chance for survival but Lin never gave up even when I did. One time when I refused to go for treatment, (I wouldn’t get out of bed), she started putting my shoes on. I asked what she was doing and she told me she was going to pick me up and carry me. I know that she would have done it too.

I miss her so much. My heart is broken and my world will never be the same without her in it.
Posted by Susan Nakao on January 17, 2021
I have so many memories of Linda, who was my sister-in-law for many years. She was always caring and filled her heart with kindness toward all. I remember Renda as a young girl and Vanya as a baby. Linda was kind and gentle in guiding them as they grew up. And I was moved by her response to her sister's cancer. They watched tons of videos that made them laugh and laugh as Linda would say, "Laughter is the BEST medicine and remaining positive can cure anything!"

Many years later, Linda decided to receive True Light, a spiritual practice that I have practiced for more than 40 years, from me. And after a few sessions, she decided to learn how to give Light and took the seminar. Then, for several months, before she sold her home in the St. Louis area and moved back to Potosi, she and I would meet at her home once a month to exchange Light. I loved having her as a Light-Giver and as a true friend. Her smile will live in my heart for the rest of my years and her example of generosity and kindness is a beacon for all!
Posted by Sally Brooks on January 16, 2021
I met Linda in 2019 at the Washington County Democrats. She made quite the impression on me in that short amount of time! Everything said about her in the tributes was absolutely true about her! It did not matter who you were, everyone was treated with love and respect. I feel disappointed that I didn't meet her sooner so as to have more time with her! Love to her family!
Posted by Daniel Bextermueller on January 16, 2021
Lin was the most beautiful person you could ever know. She was so full of goodness, happiness and love that it became infectious just being around her. You could see her in the hall when walking into work and her smile alone would put a smile on your own face. Don't get me wrong, she could kick your ass verbally before you knew what hit you, if need be. Never in anger, just with facts, logic and love. (sometimes opinion)
Lin was a bright shining light in my life during my darkest times. She let me know, and feel, that I was never alone. Even if you just needed a hug and a good cry.
Best dance partner ever! I loved her like family and she treated me as such. You will be missed Linda, the world has lost a true gem.
Posted by CORA J HOOKS on January 15, 2021
Lin took me and several other coworkers to Pop's Bar in Illinois.  I think that it was around 1979. I was the only black person in the group, but that didn't matter, because I would follow Lin anywhere. Upon arrival, I told Lin that I felt like an ink spot on a white skirt (being the only black person there)! The barmaid acted like she didn't want to serve me and boy oh boy did she catch it from Lin!!!! Lin told her that if you can't serve my sister then I will take my whole group with me and we will take our business elsewhere!!! Needless to say that barmaid treated me like royalty!!!!
My sister and my friend for life!!!!
Love you Lin forever, Jan
Posted by Daniel Robertson on January 15, 2021
Linda was like a mother to me and my family she always was there for me and always helped me even though I have been in so much trouble with the law she never degraded me or put me down I will miss you mom more then you may know I'm sorry I didn't get to say goodbye and that I loved you but I do love and will always. You will always be in my heart and will always be my 2nd mom.
Posted by April Wideman on January 15, 2021
Since the day I met her, she treated me like family. My daughter has spent many nights at her house, with her great granddaughter Kaydee, along with many outings. She always bragged how well behaved Bree was, with her. She was always so giving and caring. We will truly miss her.
Posted by Renda Robertson on January 14, 2021
My mom was the most amazing woman. I don't know anyone who's life will be the same without her in it. She made me who I am today. She helped make the family what it is. She touched the lives of so many people. Mom was a force to be reckoned with. Even if I had another 100 years with her it wouldn't be enough time to tell her and show her what she meant to me. I'm not sure I can survive without her here beside me. She was my rock, my best friend, my life. I spent countless hours trying to get her laughing at some silly thing I did or said. Her laughter was music to my ears. I am one of many that wouldn't have made it this far in life if it weren't for my mom's intervention. As a teen I was a real handful, to put it mildly. She deserved a medal for not knocking my block off. I remember when she told me years later that her friend Gus said if she could make it through my teen years without killing me eventually we might even grow to be friends. He was right! She was my best friend for the last 25 or so years. There was hardly a day that we weren't together since she moved back to Potosi area. If I had a wish it would be to ⁹ back in time, listen to her with my whole self, appreciate the wonderful person she was and give her a year long hug. I would tell her she was right about everything she lectured me about.

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Recent Tributes
Posted by Roz Sherman Voellinger on January 31, 2021
Linda has left the world and all who have been fortunate to have crossed paths with her, in a better place. I met Lin in 1978 through the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW) when she was a UAW Local 325 member at Ford. Over the 40+ years, I came to see that deeply rooted in Linda was her compassion and passion to help guide and support every person to pursue their path to a healthy, fulfilling life, as well as her drive to achieve fairness and justice for all. She had an incredible ability to be comfortable and shine in so many diverse spaces, from skilled trades to EAP to Mary Kay, from Ferguson to Potosi, from personal confidant to leader. Linda saw in every individual, a unique story complete with flaws and beauty. You are clearly gone too soon, dear friend and sister, but you have lived a life of fullness and love for your cherished family, friends and humankind.
Posted by Dee Osemeno on January 25, 2021
My sincere condolences to Aunty Lin's family. Loosing a loved one is heartbreaking and confusing, I can only imagine the pain felt by her dear family but I know that God understands and he will help you heal. Infact at Isaiah 25vs 8 God promises to 'swallow up death forever'. I pray that Jehovah gives you strength beyond what is normal.
Posted by Rachel McEwen on January 23, 2021
When I was young, Aunt Lin never failed to tell me to put my seatbelt on. I can remember her saying , “ we’re not pulling out of this driveway until you get that seatbelt on”! She stood true to her word as she always did and we did not move until each of us had buckled up. This was in the 80s, wearing a seatbelt wasn’t a law and no one much considered it. Lin was head of her time.
Years later when I was almost grown. Seatbelts became the law and cars were equipped with an alert reminding you to put your seatbelt on. The first time I herd that sound coming from a new car, I said with delight and laughter “listen it’s a Lindie Dinger”! I think everyone in the family calls it that now maybe everyone in the whole world.  

Lin always told me things that would serve me In life. Wear your seatbelt, brush your teeth, don’t walk the streets by yourself in the dark, wear sun screen, take care of each other, get an education and believe in yourself because I believe in you.
She was one in a million. I will always cherish each moment I had with her. I’m so sad she is not here with us now but I will always be blessed to have to known her. I will try my best to teach my children the things she taught me in this way she will always be with us.
her Life

Baby Linda

Linda was born in St. Louis, Missouri on November 24th, 1949, the oldest of six kids. She was 3 1/2 when her first sibling, Laurie was born and Lin immediately became a little mother to her. Two years later Johnnylee was born, and two years after that Bobbi was born. When Lin was in third grade the family moved to Potosi MO, where Lin’s mother was from. Shortly after that, Alan was born, and a year and a half later Alison was born. She became their little mother as well. She was their friend, protector, advisor, counselor, their constant motivator and cheering section until the end of her life.

Linda, a little Shirley Temple, 5 years old

She was adorable!

Linda as a teen with her little sister, Bobbi

They were such cuties!
Recent stories

Dad’s Truck

Shared by Bobbi Mifflin on January 31, 2021

I remember one time while I was living with Lin, our mom and dad came to visit. After they left we kept talking about the old truck our dad was driving. We were worried it would break down, and the heater didn’t work very well. We just kept talking about how wonderful it would be if we could get them a new truck. It was a crazy idea but we figured a way to do it. It was really all Lin since I was on welfare and social security while I was fighting cancer, but I promised to help all I could. I helped mostly with childcare and transportation, but Lin and I made a pretty good team back then.

It was winter time when we drove the new truck to their house. Our other siblings met us there since they were in on the surprise. Mom and dad thought Lin bought herself a new truck. We told them to get in and check it out. When they were seated inside we told them it was theirs. They were totally shocked.

It was awesome to give them that truck. Dad drove it for many years. That is just another example of Lin’s generosity. I always loved that about her.



My dear sister-in-law Lin

Shared by Curtis Mifflin on January 20, 2021
Lin is embedded in some of my favorite memories. She loved to come down to our lake house. As a matter of fact, she came down more than anyone else. She would always bring down someone with her so they may experience the things that she did. She loved to ride on the pontoon boat, of course making sure that everyone had sun screen. Lin thought and did for others more than she did for herself. She did so much for so many, giving her time and money to those in need. I still can not believe she is gone. If we could ALL be a little like Lin, the world would be a better place. She will forever remain in my heart.

Remembering Linda Whitley

Shared by Steven Hollis on January 17, 2021
Linda and I first met when I was still living in Kansas City.  I was a member of the Workforce collective in Kansas City and Lin was a member of Worker Unity Organization here in St. Louis.  Both collectives were part of the Federation of Independent Marxist Collectives. 

We were dedicated to organizing for a working class revolution so workers could build the power they deserve to have – in society, in politics and governing, in the economy, in the culture.  We knew that racism and sexism were the biggest roadblocks to building that type of working class power for all workers, white as well as people of color, men as well as women and cis as well as other gendered, queer, people. 

As our daughter, Vanya, has often said to me, you guys have worked so hard and so long.  Yet, the problems remain, there seems so far to go to create that revolution.  Indeed that is true, but the dedication to other people, especially working class people, especially to overcoming racism and sexism, to speaking truth to power, continued to enable Lin, and hopefully me as well, to be good, caring friends, to many, many people.  And good parents, at least most of the time.

Actually, I believe we first met at a conference in Chicago and rode together in a van back to St. Louis, then my group went on to KC.  Lin came to visit me in KC a few times, and we had a lot of fun together- in the park near my home in KC and at a lake near Lawrence in Kansas, where Renda, who was about 3 at the time, managed to put a raisin up her nose and we had to rush her to an emergency room.

In 1975, I moved to St. Louis to live with Lin.  She was working at Wagner Electric, where her father, John Whitley, had worked for many years.  We were living in an old house in Pagedale her father had bought while working at Wagner.  I remember good times in that house with the Whitley family.  I regularly took Renda up to a nearby playground to swing and slide and all those things little people like to do and parents like to do with them because it makes us feel young.  We also went to another slightly larger playground over in U-City that also had a slide and structures to climb on.

I remember watching the St. Louis Cardinals football team on tv, probably with Larry McEwen.  Larry and I became good friends and did a lot of fishing together in the rivers and streams around Potosi, where the Whitley family lived.

In 1976, Lin and I bought the home in Ferguson, 419 Georgia, for $21,000.  Paddy Quick lived with us and helped pay some of the bills.  I had been trying to get a factory job in St. Louis, and in 1976 got hired at Chrysler.  Sometime in those years, Lin got hired at Ford.  That was the “dream job” for us young socialist revolutionaries – working in an auto plant with the workers who, in Detroit and elsewhere, had built the League of Revolutionary Black Workers.  I believe it is still possible to watch the 1970 documentary, “Finally Got the News,” about the League.

In 1977, Linda and I had Vanya, who, as a toddler, we started calling “VaVaVoom” because she was a go-getter.  While we were both working, Vanya went to child care after she was about 6 months old at a church in the neighborhood.  After I got fired from Chrysler, and Voom was about 1 to 2 years old, Linda took a job working nights at Olin.  That must have been after the auto plants did the big layoffs in 1979 or whenever it was.  So I became Vanya’s main parent for that period.  

Renda was always the big sister doing everything she could to “take care” of her baby sister.  I remember lots of play time with them as Vanya was able to walk and get around.  I read lots of books to them.  We played with the wooden blocks that my grandfather had given me and that eventually went to Milo, those that were left.

I built a garden in the back second lot and I remember playing “Billy goat gruff” with Renda and Vanya on/under the bridge we had put over the creek.  We also eventually built a play house and rope swing for them in the back lot behind the garden.

Every year, during the warm months, we spent weekends in the country – either in and around Potosi where the Whitley family was from, or floating and camping on other wonderful Ozark, spring-fed, rivers.  Near Potosi we picnicked and swam and floated and fished on the Huzzah and the Courtois Rivers. We also floated the 11 Point River a lot.  Sometimes the girls and their cousins, Angie and Rachel, and others went with us, other times I guess they may have stayed in Potosi with Grandma Whitley.  Lin always loved to sing and joke and play with her sisters during these float trips – and many other times as well.  The family also took the girls swimming at the sandy “beach” on the lake near Park Hills, Missouri, I believe St. Johns’ Park or something like that.  After I bought a fishing boat, we also went camping and fishing at Lake Kincaid in Illinois. 

In 1983, Linda, Renda, Vanya, and I went to Japan for a week with my sister thanks to my father.  We visited many Buddha shrines, Japanese gardens, pearl divers, and Vanya always remembers me eating the legs off a small octopus.  She loves octopi and now has a tattoo of one, so maybe she’s trying to make up for me eating that one???

Linda was a fabulous parent to Renda and Vanya, always loving on them and encouraging them.  After the divorce, we still collaborated well in taking turns driving Vanya to gifted programs, both kids to summer experiences, and then private school when we decided she should go.  Of course, Linda did most of it since Vanya only spent maybe one week each month with me and the Roystons.

My memory isn’t what it used to be but those are some things I remember.  I do agree with but have not repeated, many other things Linda’s friends have said on Facebook or elsewhere, such as:

"She loved music and she loved to dance. She loved to walk and go thrift-shopping, always on the lookout for little gifts for her family. But mostly, she loved to be with her family and friends, especially her sisters, telling stories, dancing and laughing."

"She was always upbeat and made you feel like there wasn't anything you couldn't do if you wanted it bad enough."

"She was the most dedicated and loving human. She backed off nothing, showed courage in the face of racism and hatred, she believed in the American dream and loved unions. She was one of a kind."

"I saw Linda as a protector of truth. A Guardian, over looker, as you will of the left out and the forgotten."