By Stephanie Abney
When Wayne and Shirley Whitlock moved to Arizona 35 years ago from southern California, they brought with them a love of the gospel, a dedication to the U.S. Constitution and a willingness to do all they could to preserve our freedoms.
The Whitlocks, members of the Elliot Ward, Gilbert Arizona Stake, have eight children, 52 grandchildren and 40 great-grandchildren. Their lives have been filled with service to God, the family and their country.
Wayne spied a feisty, dark-haired beauty at the drive-in restaurant, where they’d gone with friends after a stake fireside. When things progressed, and Wayne and Shirley wanted to be married, the Los Angeles Temple was three years from completion. They opted to start their lives together by traveling to the St. George Utah Temple to be married on November 8, 1952.
Their service to country began before they met, when Wayne served in the Navy during WWII. He returned to serve an LDS mission to the Central States: Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Arkansas. Coincidentally, when they later served a mission together, they were called to Missouri and Kansas. Wayne jokes, “The Lord had to send me back, this time with Shirley, to make sure I got it right.”
While serving in Independence, Missouri, from 1993-1994, they helped establish a membership retention program, called “Labor of Love.” The program helped new converts find their ancestors and get to the temple soon after their baptism in order to do baptisms for deceased family members. The result was a retention increase of 41 percent for new members.
The Whitlocks served a second mission as local missionaries for 18 months at the Mesa Family History Center.
While raising their three daughters and five sons in California, Wayne was a State Parole Agent. He retired after 20 years and, soon afterward, moved his family to Arizona.
Shirley was busy with the children when she began attending meetings of the national organization known as Eagle Forum, to learn about preserving the freedoms of our country. After moving to Arizona, she became the state Eagle Forum president. She served faithfully for 14 years. During that time and for much of her adult life, Shirley would rise before dawn to study about the founding of our country, the Constitution and the current issues that threatened the family or our freedoms. She was invited to give hundreds of speeches and firesides on these topics all over the state. Her sewing room/office has many plaques and trophies from grateful organizations where she presented her messages.
Shirley also likes to sew and every new baby in the family gets a crib-size quilt. Wayne enjoys gardening and caring for his chickens, among other things. Last year their family held a big party to celebrate the couple’s 60th wedding anniversary. Their legacy of patriotism and service lives on in the lives of their children.
Daughter Carolyn Ricks sums up what all her siblings think of their parents, “My dad is kind; he’s a great dad, provider and example. Mom has always fought for the good causes and instilled that in her children. Both of our parents taught us that family relationships are more important than material things. They are my heroes.”