Linda Joan Whitley

January 21, 2021

Linda Joan Whitley, loving mother of two and surrogate mother to so many, passed away at age 71, on Wednesday, January 13, 2021, due to complications from COVID-19. Linda was born on November 24, 1949 in St. Louis to Edith Marie Turnbull and John Alfred Whitley.

Linda graduated from Potosi High School in 1968, moved to St. Louis, and began working for Ford Motor Company where she worked for almost 30 years. She worked on the assembly line for about 8 years, then served as the Employee Assistance Plan (EAP) representative for 15 years before she became one of the first women at Ford to go into the skilled trades and worked as a toolmaker for the last 7 years of her tenure at Ford Motor Company. As an EAP representative, she helped hundreds of people deal with addiction and other mental health issues and made a lasting impression on the lives of so many people. She came to love her work in the skilled trades, learning complex math so she could create tools and machine parts. Throughout her career, she was an active member and leader of the United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 325, as well as the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW) chapter in St. Louis. Later in life, when she moved back to her hometown of Potosi, she became active with the Washington County Democrats, finding ways to improve the lives of everyone around her. She also sold Mary Kay cosmetics for many years because she believed in the importance of skin care.

Linda was a dedicated and loving human being who touched the lives of so many people and was known as a force for good in the world. She stood up against racism, sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia and fought for justice by showing up for picket lines, strike support, social and racial justice rallies, and anti-war protests. She was an inspiration to all with her kindness, determination and her love for people. She touched everyone she met with her boundless energy and dedication to “Do The Right Thing.”

Linda’s love and support for her family had no bounds. She taught her nieces, nephews, children, grandchildren and great grandchildren to love reading and books, to pursue their education and to “be the change you wish to see in the world.” Not only did she teach them how to fight sexism and racism, but she showed them by example what a strong and capable anti-racist white woman could accomplish. She loved music and she loved to dance. She loved to walk and go thrift-shopping, always on the lookout for little gifts for her family. But mostly, she loved to be with her family and friends, especially her sisters, telling stories, dancing and laughing.

Linda is preceded in death by her mother, Edith, and her father, John. She is survived by three sisters, Lauren, Barbara (Curt) and Alison (Donnie), two brothers, John Lee (Barb) and Alan, her two daughters, Renda and Vanya (Dina), two grandsons, Tony (Crystal) and Milo, seven great-grandchildren, Kaydence, Tristan, Lily, Leif, Amanda, Reaghan and Oliver and countless nieces and nephews. Her vibrance, passion for helping the world and love for humanity will be sorely missed by so many.

When it is safe to gather in large numbers, the family will hold a memorial service. At this time, please include comments, stories, videos and pictures on Linda’s virtual memorial site:

In lieu of flowers, please make a donation to Women at Risk International (an organization that fights against human trafficking): Alternatively, she would be happy if you donate to your local homeless shelter or food bank.