Joan Betty LeRoy Whitney was born on 20 June 1943 in Chicago, Illinois in the Lewis Memorial Hospital. Her parents, Isaac and Estelle LeRoy, worked hard, and, due to schooling being cheaper than babysitting, Joan ended up attending two years of kindergarten. Until the end of her sixth grade, she attended a private Catholic institution, Sacred Heart School. In June of 1955, they moved to Plainwell, Michigan, and from then on, Joan preferred living in smaller, more rural towns than in the big city. In Plainwell, she attended a public school, which she enjoyed, and she was heavily involved in Latin club, Choir, Girls’ Athletic Association, the school paper, the yearbook, and the Junior and Senior plays. She worked from the age of 14 on in A & W root beer stands, the Red Brick Inn, and as a lifeguard in several cities. In 1961, Joan was chosen as the Allegan County Dairy Princess, and at graduation, she wore gold cords, being in the top ten percent of the class. After her graduation, she worked for Valley Metal Products Company for a couple months before being accepted at State Technical Institute as the secretary to the vice principle, Mr. Berry. On 23 September 1961 in Otsego, Michigan, Joan married Franklin “Skip” Becht Whitney, Jr., and together they had 3 children, Franklin Becht III, Michael Kelly, and Jennie Estelle. When she started having her children, Joan went back to Valley Metal Products Company until 1965, when she began working for Joslin Ford as a secretary and bookkeeper. Eventually the company was bought by Ford Motor Company and changed to Twin Ford Sales. She worked there until a change of business managers brought about an undesirable pay cut. Joan worked one more job as a secretary for Gordon Baehre Ford and Mercury in Allegan. In 1969, as a result of personal conflicts, she left the job and pursued her real dream to be a teacher. She went to Kalamazoo Community College and Western Michigan University to get a college degree. On 19 August 1972, she graduated with a 3.0 grade point average, and she began teaching at Martin High School that same year. A year later, she transferred to Gilkey Elementary School, where she taught for 30 years. She also earned an associate degree from Brigham Young University in Genealogy, though when she received this degree is unknown. Joan was also heavily involved in her community, serving on the Bicentennial Committee, teaching swimming to her sons and others, acting as a den mother for cub scouts, and many other things. She also wrote a book, Plainwell History in 1977. She died on 5 November 2002 in Gun Plain Township, Michigan after a battle with kidney cancer.
This collection includes a total of 3 items from Joan B. Whitney. The first is a 1-page typescript letter with a header reading, “Mrs. Joan B. Whitney, 150 First Avenue, Plainwell, Michigan 49080.” It is dated 7 July 1986 and addressed to “Brigham Young University, Library Archives, Provo, Utah.” The letter summarizes Joan’s efforts form the past 6 years to compile family histories with her Gilkey Elementary school students. She mentions that she earned an associate degree from BYU in Genealogy, and ever since then, she has mailed copies of her family tree to the school to be preserved for future use by “avid researchers.” The other two items are plastic ring-bound books containing family tree charts and life sketches of some of Joan’s students and their families, as well as a life sketch of Joan herself at the end of each. Each book also includes a few recipes and family photographs, attached to some of the entries. The first book, dated 1 April 1985, is entitled, “Portrait of my Family: My Family Heritage from Generation to Generation,” and it numbers 107 pages, and an additional 7 pages of family tree charts inserted at the beginning. It contains biographies of the following individuals and some of their family members: - Michael Brown - Catherine Lynn Burt - Theresa Clark - Diana Dekema - Paul De Mink - Jason DeRuyver - Hilary Ann Draves - Tony Evans - J. J. Hilton - Jessica L. Jacobsen - Jason Daniel Knopf - Karen Livingston - Adam Mac Donald - Heather Paul - Bryan Pierce - Stephanie Santman - Lori Sites - Emily Suzanne Steele - Chris Tuska - Michael David Walling - Reneé Weathers - Jackie Wilkes - Mrs. Joan Betty LeRoy Whitney
The second book, dated 1 June 1986, is entitled, “Family Tree, by Mrs. Joan B. Whitney’s Fourth Grade Class, Gilkey Elementary School 1986.” It numbers about 85 pages, with an additional 25 pages of family tree charts inserted at the beginning. It contains biographies of the following individuals and some of their family members: - Andrew James Blake - Tamara Ann Brown - James Charles Brummett - George D. Carlyle - Betsy C. Cooley - Amy K. Cooper - Brandy Jo Edwards - Dustin R. Goolsby - Adam Robert Grinage - Heather Lynn Jungman - Michael Walter Kaminski - Jeremy Scott Logan - Tammy Renee McBride - Eric McClellan - Jill Erin McCormick - Robert Leonard Meert II - Cary Peterson - Susan R. Prentice - David Christopher Simmons - Geoffrey Stevens - Jerry Lee Trimm - Amy Walling - Joel C. Whiddon - Shannon Nicole Wixson - Masaru Yamazaki - Mrs. Joan Betty LeRoy Whitney