June 19, 1935 ~ August 15, 2009
1935 - 2009
James Spencer (Jim) Whittier, age 74, of Palos Verdes Estates, died Saturday, August 15, at home after a long battle with pulmonary fibrosis. In spite of his illness, he never lost his courageous, kind, gentle spirit, sense of humor and humble love for others. The family extends their deepest thanks to Jim's many faithful friends who visited him often bringing their well wishes and books for him to read. The hospice nurse said he had no fear of dying and was peaceful about his passing. It was a joy for all to see him trust in the Lord during this time.
Jim was born in Farmington, MN on June 19, 1935 to Millard Giles and Bernice Julseth Whittier. He grew up in small towns throughout MN, KS, WI, and WA and then back to Farmington for his high school years where he graduated as class valedictorian. Jim was awarded numerous academic scholarships which financed his education at the University of Minnesota where he earned his BS in mechanical engineering in 1957 and his MS and PhD in mechanics and materials in 1958 and 1961.
Jim met the love of his life, Virginia (Ginny) Soennichsen while in college. They were married June 9, 1961 in Minneapolis and moved to California. They relocated to Palos Verdes Estates in 1975. They lived briefly in Ithaca, New York (1974-75) where Jim conducted post-doctoral research in applied physics at Cornell University and in Alexandria, Virginia (1987-89) while Jim was on special assignment to the Pentagon as Assistant to the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Advanced Technology.
From 1961 to 2002, Jim was with The Aerospace Corp in El Segundo. For many years, he headed the Mechanics Research Dept. in the labs, where he authored more than 30 articles on engineering mechanics and lasers. Following his assignment at the Pentagon, he served as Distinguished Engineer in Space Launch Operations and as a Special Assistant in the corporate headquarters.
After retirement, Jim loved spending time with his family, traveling with a special group of friends on numerous cruises and detailing his family genealogy. He traced his mother's ancestry back to Norway and his father's ancestry to many New England pioneers, including three passengers of the Mayflower. Jim prepared several volumes of family history valued by his relatives. With Ginny, he enjoyed an active social life, belonging to two dance clubs, an antique club, attending local performing arts productions throughout the South Bay as well as his membership in the Palos Verdes Breakfast Club.
Jim will be greatly missed by his loving wife of 48 years, Ginny, his brother, Dan (Karen) Whittier of Farmington, Minnesota, daughter Laura (Doug) Gleed and grandchildren Spencer, Rachel and Erin King, Ellis and Logan Gleed and step grandson, Brandon Gleed. He gave them all the wonderful gift of his love, support and wise counsel.
A memorial service will be held on Friday, August 28 at 11:00 AM in the North Chapel of Rolling Hills Covenant Church, 2221 Palos Verdes Drive North, Rolling Hills Estates, CA 90274, (310) 519-9406. There will be a reception for family and friends after the service. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in Jim's name to the Peninsula Friends of the Library, P.O. Box 2361, Palos Verdes, CA 90274, (310) 377-9584, ext 553 or to the American Lung Association, www.lungusa.org.
Please use this website, www.LAfuneral.com to send the family messages, share memories, or to obtain directions to the services.
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