Deacon James E. Whitford was a physician who spent his time taking care of people’s minds, bodies and souls.
During his time studying in the Diocese of Rochester’s permanent-diaconate program, Deacon Whitford helped to establish medical clinics at St. Joseph’s House of Hospitality and Bethany House in Rochester.
After moving his private practice to Goose Creek, S.C., in the mid-1980s, he continued his diaconal service at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church there. He even found time to serve on the board of the South Carolina Mental Health Commission and other community organizations.
Deacon Whitford, 84, died Thursday, Oct. 16, 2008, at his home.
Before relocating to South Carolina, Deacon Whitford had been active at St. Mary Parish, Dansville, as a lector and reader, extraordinary minister of holy Communion, leader of Bible-study and Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults classes, and a member of the human-development committee and parish council.
He was ordained as part of the Diocese of Rochester’s first class of permanent deacons on April 17, 1982. After his ordination, Deacon Whitford served at his parish as well as Kennedy House and St. Joseph’s House of Hospitality.
Deacon Whitford’s daughter, Mary Jane Daino, said her father always tried to gently suggest to the young homeless men he helped at St. Joseph’s House of Hospitality that their families would appreciate hearing from them.
“He would let them know there was something better,” she said.
In an interview with the Catholic Courier on his 25th anniversary of ordination last year, Deacon Whitford said he considered his medical work and his diaconal vocation to be part of his larger ministry.
“Until the diaconate came along, I didn’t realize every life is a ministry, or it should be,” he said.
Deacon Whitford is survived by his wife of 60 years, Jane Gallup Whitford. Daino said her father was her mother’s primary caregiver for the past eight years as she recovered from a stroke. During this time he also maintained his other commitments, including leading a weekly Bible study, teaching in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults program and serving as the company physician for ALCOA Aluminum in Goose Creek, a job he held for 23 years.
Deacon Whitford graduated from the University of Buffalo School of Medicine and served as a captain in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. While living in Dansville, he worked as medical director of Tri-County Family Medicine.
“From the time he was a small boy, all he ever talked about was wanting to be a doctor,” Daino said. “It’s all he ever wanted to do.”
In addition to his wife, Deacon Whitford is survived by his daughters, Mary Jane Daino (Joseph F. Jr.) of Lansdale, Pa., and Nancy Kappes of Indianapolis, Ind.; four grandchildren; a great-grandson; and a sister, Martha Whitford Barr (Gordon) of Elmira Heights. He was predeceased by his son, Dr. James E. Whitford Jr., three brothers and two sisters.
A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated Oct. 21, 2008, at Immaculate Conception Church in Goose Creek. Interment will be in Horseheads, where Deacon Whitford was born.
Memorials may be made to Berkeley Community Mental Health Center, PO Box 1030, Moncks Corner, SC 29461, or Advantage Hospice, 3751 S. Live Oak Dr., Moncks Corner, SC 29461.