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Gustava Elnora Whitmore entered the world on May 30, 1935, in Mason, Tennessee. As the twelfth of fourteen children born to Charlie and Willie Beatrice Whitmore, she was raised on farmland her father purchased from his slaveholder ancestors. The Whitmore family faithfully attended Fredonia Baptist Church.
Her parents were steadfast advocates of higher education. All fourteen children attended Lane College in Jackson, Tennessee. Gustava graduated from Lane College with a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education in 1956 and then taught for four years in Fayette County, Tennessee. She later pursued graduate studies in education at the University of Missouri–Kansas City.
Gustava met her husband, Dan White, when they were both students at Lane College. They married in 1958 and moved to Kansas City in 1960. She began a long teaching career with the Kansas City, Missouri School District and had the highest expectations for her students at Dunbar, Linwood, Ruhl and Hale Cook elementary schools. “Mrs. White” retired from the District in 1995 after 39 years of service. As a retiree, she enjoyed providing income tax services as an AARP volunteer and supporting Swope Health Services as member of SPROUTS.
Shortly after arriving in Kansas City, Gustava joined Bethel A.M.E. Church and was active with several ministries over the past 63 years, including the Sunday School, YPD, the Kitty E. Raynor Missionary Society, and the Adult Council. In leadership roles, she served as Director of the Vacation Bible School and as President of the Daughters of Bethel for many years. She also assisted in leading the Brownie and Girl Scout troops at Bethel. Beyond church involvement, she was a committed member of the Kansas City, Missouri Chapter of Jack and Jill of America and The Carrousels, for which she served a term as President of the KC Chapter.
Of all her endeavors, Gustava was most proud of her family. She recently celebrated 65 years of marriage to Dan, who worked as a medical technologist and owned a medical laboratory business for many years. Together, they raised two accomplished daughters: Lisa White Hardwick, a judge on the Missouri Court of Appeals, and Melanie Miller, the recently retired Chief Executive Officer of Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey.
Most precious to Gustava were her four grandsons, all of whom continued the legacy of higher education and achievement. Spencer Hardwick, a graduate of Harvard University and doctoral candidate, is Executive Director of the Bluford Health Leadership Institute in Kansas City. William “Chip” Miller, Jr. graduated from New York University and is the Associate Artistic Director of Portland Center Stage in Portland, Oregon. Jordan Miller earned bachelors and masters degree in engineering from Stanford University, and works as a Product Owner for General Motors in Detroit. He will return to Stanford this fall to obtain a masters degree in business on a General Motors fellowship. Zachary Hardwick graduated from Dartmouth College and Columbia University Law School, and is a practicing attorney in both New York and DC.
Gustava transitioned peacefully on July 19, 2023, after a hard fought battle with Alzheimer's disease. She remained strong by holding fast to her favorite scripture, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4: 13. As a devout woman of faith, she is reunited in heaven with her parents and 11 of her siblings: Charlie James Whitmore, Artie Morris, Chesta Holly, Fred Whitmore Sr., Doll Craig, Laverne Armstrong, Willa Mae Walker, Evanell Coleman, Ruby Dean Caldwell, Preston Whitmore Sr., and Shirley Shellman.
Memories of Gustava will be cherished by her husband, Dan; daughters Lisa (Herb Hardwick) and Melanie (William “Skip” Miller); grandsons Spencer (Phyllis Hardwick), Chip, Jordan, and Zac; great-grandson Lennox Hardwick; sisters, Amanda Johnson and Gloria Jones; goddaughter Latoya Armstrong, godson Alan Vincent May, and grand-godson Michael McDaniel; a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, and family friends, including devoted niece-caregiver Margaret White, and special friends Margaret May and Joyce Smith. The family appreciates the compassionate care Gustava received as a resident of Anthology of the Plaza during the past two years.
The Celebration of Life for Gustava White will be held on Saturday, August 5, 2023, at the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, 2329 Flora Ave., Kansas City, Missouri. Visitation begins at 9:30 AM, and the services will be held at 11:00 AM. Interment will take place at Forest Hill Cemetery, with services conducted by Watkins Heritage Chapel. Service live stream http://www.mstcsunset.com
In lieu of flowers, donations in memory of Gustava White can be sent to Bethel AME Church (2329 Flora, KCMO 64108) or the Lane College Whitmore Family Fund (Office of Institutional Advancement, 545 Lane Avenue, Jackson, TN 38301)