In Memoriam: Bill Wilhite Jr.
His love for truckers made Wilhite’s TA special
On Oct. 4, truckers passing through Western Tennessee lost a dear friend. Bill Wilhite, Jr., of the Denmark TA, near Jackson, passed away at age 68.
Wilhite began working at age 14 and never stopped until a heart attack in June hospitalized him. He was the ultimate people person, says his sister, Diana Hughes.
“There’s not a day that goes by that someone doesn’t ask me about him,” she says. “Bill was the truck stop.”
Bill’s favorite part of the business was the shop, where he enjoyed meeting with the drivers and talking to all the shop employees.
“He liked to be where all the action was,” Hughes says. “His first love was being out there with the guys. He could do anything they could do, and he wouldn’t ask them to do anything he wouldn’t do.”
The Denmark TA has always been more than just another pit stop. Founded by the late William and Virginia Wilhite, it’s been a gathering place for drivers and locals alike for some 40 years, and was featured in a 2007 issue of Road King. Siblings Diana, Bill and Jerry Wilhite became like family to many drivers, and numerous other Wilhites have worked their way through the business, which joined TA 10 years ago.
“When they built the building, Bill Jr., Jerry, Mom and Dad and I stood out there like a family should and prayed,” Hughes recalls. “The Lord has blessed us with a business where we have fed so many hungry people. We will keep doing that.”
Much of his large family was by his side in his final hours, including his wife Patricia, son Billy Wilhite and daughters Janice Turpin and Debbie Lovelace.
“He was my brother, my boss, my best friend,” Hughes says. “We really have such a loss in our family.”
That extends to the truckers Bill Wilhite loved so much. Hughes says he had recently talked about retiring. What would he do? she asked him.
“I’ll come to the truck stop,” he said.