Living Out Loud

Special day, special man

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“Wake the neighbors! Get the word out! Come on, crank up the music, climb a mountain and shout! This is life we’ve been given, made to be lived out … so live out loud.”

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They came from far and wide to celebrate with their former band director, their mentor, their friend. It was a day to honor, roast and toast Denny Whitley, retiring from public school as a teacher and band director for 46 years.

More than 350 people traveled to Whitehouse High School for an event that none will soon forget. It was a day of laughter, tears and many smiles not to mention all the selfies taken with Whitley. Everyone wanted their photo with the man of the hour.

A hamburger lunch was provided and was followed by a presentation and reception that included a reunion band. Filled with 65-70 current and former students from Clarksville and Whitehouse schools, Whitley directed them in “The Star Spangled Banner,” Timpson school song and fight song, Clarksville school song and fight song as well as the Whitehouse High school song and fight song. The band topped it off by playing two signature songs of Whitley’s band days in Whitehouse. They played “Triumph” and closed with “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”

I was so busy helping with the burgers and such earlier, emotion had not yet registered with me for the day. As soon as “Triumph” began the tears flowed. When “You’ll Never Walk Alone” was over I was almost in a heap of emotion and tears.

I am beyond excited for Denny and Regina as they step-off into retirement. So why must I be such a sap through all of this? It’s OK. It is a good sappy but sappy none the less.

Words someone speaks or events that take place are often emotional but I find myself moved by music most of all.

He couldn’t be there in person but Congressman Louis Gohmert sent a video message that was broadcast during the presentation. Also, Smith County Judge and former Whitley student Nathaniel Moran spoke of the leadership on and off the field led and taught by this great man. Mayor Charles Parker was there to officially proclaim July 1 as Denny Whitley day.

Many friends, family, former students and parents contributed to a gift fund for the Whitleys. He and Regina were presented with a captain’s hat and traveler’s bag for their surprise Alaskan Cruise.

He knows but I want to say here, again, how much I appreciate all he has done for and instilled in all the students who passed through the band program. He not only taught but showed them how to always make their best better.

Thank you Mr. Whitley. God bless you and thanks again for everything!

(Contact Suzanne at reporter@tricountyleader.com)

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