William “Bill” Clayton Whitehead

Born November 1, 1937 in New Bedford, Massachusetts
Departed April 7, 2024 in Melbourne Village, Florida

Melbourne Village – William “Bill” Clayton Whitehead, 86, of Melbourne Village, Florida, passed away peacefully at his home on the morning of Sunday, April 7, 2024.

Bill was born on November 1, 1937, in New Bedford, Massachusetts to Edna May Fuller Whitehead and Ivon “Ben” Whitehead. During most of his growing up years he lived in nearby Fairhaven, Massachusetts.

Bill is survived by his adoring wife of 35 years, Karen, his son, Keith Whitehead (Chris), daughters, Karen T. Whitehead, Heidi Vines and Debra D’Alessandro, stepdaughter, Lauren Lyerla (Tim), and stepson, Russell M. Gaspard (Alicia), grandchildren, Dominic and Zoe D’Alessandro, step grandson, James Lyerla and his sister, Judy Kent. He is preceded in death by his parents, and his eldest daughter, Laura.

Bill graduated from Fairhaven High in 1955 with High Honors. Subsequently he attended Worcester Polytech Institute where he was a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity and a 2nd Lt. in ROTC. He graduated with a degree in Electrical Engineering in 1959.

Bill married Barbara Wentworth while he was a senior in college, they had 5 children together. After college, Bill worked at the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics in Groton, Connecticut. He had to leave Electric Boat for 6 months to serve as Second Lieutenant in the Signal Corps of the US Army as part of his ROTC obligations. In 1962, Bill and his family moved to Laurel, Maryland, where Bill went to work for Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab. Bill graduated from George Washington University with a Master’s Degree in Engineering Administration in 1967.

The family moved to Melbourne Beach, Florida in 1969, when Bill began his employment at Harris Corporation, (then Radiation). He worked as a Systems Engineer, Engineering Manager and Program Manager during his 36 years at Harris.

Bill participated in many interests and activities over the years: Deeply involved in his community, at one time Bill served as Police and Fire Commissioners and Vice Mayor of Melbourne Beach simultaneously! An avid runner for 30 years, he founded the annual Melbourne Beach Founder’s Day Pineapple 10K race. Bill enjoyed scuba diving and travelling to the islands. He served for 6 years with the award-winning Harbor City Volunteer Ambulance Squad as an EMT and ambulance driver. Bill, who had a great speaking and singing voice, acted for years in numerous plays and musicals with the Melbourne Civic Theater (formerly Indian River Players).

Bill was president of the board of Melbourne Civic Theater for 2 years, and also served stints as president of the board of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Brevard in West Melbourne and president of the board of the Space Coast Progressive Alliance. He also served on committees for the Town of Melbourne Village and the American Homesteading Foundation. A generous and caring man, Bill donated regularly to causes important to him, especially supporting marginalized communities and the environment.

Bill and Barbara divorced in 1983. He met Karen that same year and they married in 1988, moving from the barrier island to Melbourne Village. Bill and Karen enjoyed their many travels in the US, Europe, and Canada.

One of Bill’s last jobs before retiring from Harris was working as Program Manager on a field assignment to the Los Angeles area. Bill and Karen lived in Hermosa Beach, CA for 15 months, followed by 5 months in Colorado Springs.

Bill found many ways to enjoy life, including scuba diving, kayaking, hiking, biking, mountain climbing, reading, watching “cop shows” on TV, working out at the gym, taking up painting after his stroke in 2011, tent, pop up and trailer camping, spending time with his children and grandchildren, going to the movies and dinner with friends. , and telling his many funny “stories”.

Everything Bill did, he did with gusto. His booming laugh, nutty sense of humor, his sense of adventure (and civic duty) will be missed by all who knew him.

A memorial service for Bill will be held on Saturday, June 1, at 2:00pm at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Brevard, 2185 Meadowlane Ave, West Melbourne, 32904. The service will also be carried on Zoom. Bill’s friends and family who are unable to be present in person will be able to join the service online via: https://zoom.us/j/95856294656 Meeting ID: 958 5629 4656

In lieu of flowers, some may choose to make a donation to one of Bill’s favorite causes: Habitat for Humanity, St. Jude’s Research Hospital for Children, The United Farmworkers, or the Natural Resources Defense Council.

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