Community loses servant

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Troy community is mourning the loss of one of its most dedicated and outstanding citizens.

Joel Witherington’s death on Sunday threw a cloak of sadness over the entire community that he served so unselfishly for more than 20 years as director of the Troy Housing Authority. Troy Mayor Jimmy Lunsford said Witherington will be remembered by most as a true Southern gentleman.

“That’s the way that I can best describe him,” Lunsford said.

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“He was a gentleman in every sense of the word and he was also one of the most dedicated and hard working individuals I have every known.” Lunsford said Witherington was a community servant and his dedication to the community was visible in the tremendous programs that he developed for the Troy Housing Authority, which he served as director for more than 20 years.

“Joel Witherington was loved throughout the Troy community and also across the nation because of his long service to the housing authority,” said Ken Vaughn, Troy Housing Authority director.

“I was at a meeting of housing authority directors in Nashville recently and people were asking me about him. Everyone loved and appreciated him.

“The one thing that stands out in my mind about Joel Witherington was his integrity. He was always straightforward. If something was right, it was right. When something was wrong it was wrong and he always knew right from wrong.” Witherington was the first director of the Troy Housing Authority and served from the mid 1970s until his retirement in 1992.

“Even after 17 years, Joel Witherington’s influence is still being felt,” Vaughn said. “He had an outstanding personality and he was always there when the residents needed him.”

The love, respect and appreciation of the Troy Housing Authority and the community as a whole was evident when the authority’s Family Life Center was named in Witherington’s honor. The Family Life Center continues to make a positive difference in the lives of young people.

“The Center provides tutorial services, mentoring, drug education and all other educational programs for our youth,” Vaughn said. “We have between 50 and 60 young people a day that benefit from our programs.”Dave Madden, director of the Ozark Housing Authority was a colleague of Witherington for 25 years and counted him as a good friend.

“What struck me about Joel was his humbleness,” Madden said. “He was always humble and he had a strong belief in God and was dedicated to serving his fellow man. He was very serious about his work and worked continually for the betterment of the Troy Housing Authority. His work knew no bounds as far as time was concerned. He would work 24-7 in the need be.” Madden said Witherington had a saying but he couldn’t it quote word for word. “But the essence of it was that if something was for the benefit of the residents of Troy Housing Authority, he would try to do it no matter what the task.” George O’Neal, a longtime friend of Witherington, knew him personally and also worked with him with the City of Troy. “Joel did a tremendous job and was a great influence on a lot of people,” O’Neal said.

“He led by the his lifestyle. He had the respect of all those he worked with at the Troy Housing Authority and was well respected in the community. Joel was well known, well respected and well loved. He was a good friend and a good man. I admired him and he will be greatly missed by a lot of people.”