Betty Jo McFatter Whitehead
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Betty Jo McFatter Whitehead
  • February 6, 1929 - June 24, 2017
  • Alexander, Arkansas

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Betty Jo McFatter Whitehead completed her earthly journey on June 24, 2017 in Bryant, Arkansas, at the age of 88.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Kenneth Whitehead, her parents Daniel and Lenora McFatter, her siblings Trudy Williams, Bonnie Smith, Clyde Earl McFatter, W.W. "Bill" McFatter, and Prentice "Pat" McFatter.

She is survived by her children Paul Whitehead of Forest Hill, LA, Keith Whitehead and his wife Nikole of Lithia, Florida, and Kyleen Prewett and her husband Carroll of Salem, Arkansas, seven grandchildren Jeremy, Andrew, and Abby Whitehead and Breanna Whitehead Fisher , Sarah, Kyle, and Wayne Hawkins, and four great-grandchildren Xoe, Gabe, and Jade Hawkins, and Parker Whitehead. She is also survived by two brothers, H.K. "Kyle" (Mary) McFatter and E.R. "Ed" " (Jodie) McFatter, both of Sulphur and one sister, Dannie (Nathan)Marcantel of DeQuincy, as well as numerous nieces and nephews.

Betty Jo lived a long and interesting life. She was born on Feb. 6, 1929, and grew up in the community of Perkins, just south of DeQuincy. She played basketball in high school and was in the last class to graduate after only completing eleven grades. She was very skilled in typing and shorthand and following high school went to school in Springfield, Missouri, to train to be a telephone operator. Her first job after high school was with a telegraph company in Texas where she met a lifelong friend Valerie Deyo.

This job paid very little and after all bills were paid, on one occasion, she didn't have money for food. She often told the story about how she was so broke, she couldn't even buy a hamburger. Then, one day, out of the blue, she checked her mail and there was a letter from her daddy. In it was a $20 bill! That made such an impression on her that for the rest of her life, she tried to help people whenever she could, especially family and friends.

Betty wanted to travel, so she applied for and received a job with the American Red Cross. During the Korean war, the Red Cross sent her first to California, then Japan with a brief visit to Korea. In Japan, she made a special friend whose Japanese nephew, Takashi, later lived with Betty Jo and her family for a year while studying at LSU-S.

After returning to the states, she moved to Beaumont, TX, and then to Lake Charles. At that time, Lake Charles was home to Chennault Air Force Base, and stationed there was her future husband, Kenneth Whitehead. After their marriage, the couple had three children and, true to Air Force life, moved many times. Their military travels even took her back to Japan and then to Okinawa. With all the moves and three young children, Betty no longer held a paying job. However, while on Okinawa, she volunteered at the base gift shop where Ken said it cost him $8 an hour (in 1967 dollars) for her to work there because she bought everything that came in the shop!

While on Okinawa, Ken suffered a massive heart attack and the family returned to Louisiana. Ken survived his illness, but Betty was concerned about her ability to support her family should anything happen to him. So, she went back to college at LSU-Shreveport and in her early 40s, earned a degree in Business Education. She taught one semester at a local high school and decided that wasn't her calling!

Ken passed away in 1986 and a few years later Betty moved from Bossier City to Sulphur to be closer to her brothers and sisters. While in Sulphur, she spent a lot of time with her brother Bill at the Port of Lake Charles Seaman's Center, was very active in the Daughters of the American Revolution, and a faithful member of Pine Grove Baptist Church.
In 2000, she moved to the Little Rock area to be closer to her daughter. She lived there until she went to be with our Lord, her parents, and her departed brothers and sisters.

Ken and Betty believed in education and Betty was especially proud of her children - all three of whom became doctors. Paul with a PhD in Fisheries, Keith a medical doctor, and Kyleen with a doctorate in Accounting.

Betty loved all of her eight brothers and sisters. She named her daughter after her big brother Kyle whom she always admired, spent many hours watching "Wheel of Fortune" with her brother Ed and his wife Jodie, and felt like she raised her baby sister "Waby"as her own. She and her family were the principal caregivers for her sister Trudy who died with cancer while both resided in Bossier City.

We honor Betty's life today and remember how special she was.