by Richard Lamb-Advance Editor
Rogers City is again honoring Harry Hoeft Whiteley with a day named in his honor. At a recent meeting of the Rogers City Council, a resolution was passed to make November 8, 2019, Harry H. Whiteley Day on the occassion of his 100thbirthday.
Whiteley, the grandson of lumber baron Paul H. Hoeft and son of longtime newspaper publisher Hal Whiteley and his wife Leila Hoeft Whiteley, made a name for himself both locally and in Michigan. He was born Nov. 8, 1919 at the Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles.
A 1937 graduate of Rogers City High School, he was editor of the high school newspaper, captain of the football team and class president. After several years of employment with the Midland Daily News and the Niles Daily Star, Harry returned home to Rogers City in the late 1940s to go into business with his father, Hal.
Hal retired in 1962 after 50 years in the business, turning over the newspaper operation to his son, Harry. As the town grew, the newspaper continued to grow in the 1960s and 1970s under the guidance of its energetic leader.
In addition to guiding the newspaper operation, he devoted much time to public service and politics. Harry ran Fred Alger’s campaigns for governor in 1950 and 1952. Harry was a delegate to the 1952 Republican National Convention in San Francisco, which nominated Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower for president, later traveling with Eisenhower on the campaign trail.
To attempt to list his accomplishments is taking the risk of missing a few. He was the first chairman of the Downtown Development Corporation in Rogers City, chaired the Thompson’s Harbor State Park Advisory Commission and served as president of the Presque Isle County Sportsmen’s Club.
He is a past president of the Michigan Press Association, the Michigan Outdoor Writers Association, the Great Lakes Cruising Club and the East Michigan Tourist Association. He served on the board of directors of both the Michigan State Chamber of Commerce and the Michigan United Conservation Clubs. He also served on the board and was elected chairman six times of the Michigan Conservation Commission, later named the Natural Resources Commission. He was appointed by former President George Bush in 1992 to serve on the Great Lakes Fisheries Commission. He has served on the board of directors of the Greater Michigan Foundation, the Alpena Community College Foundation and the Jesse Besser Museum, now the Besser Museum of Northeast Michigan.
Former Gov. George Romney awarded Harry the Michigan Volunteer Leadership Award in 1967.
He was named the “Outstanding Citizen of the Year” in 1969 and served as grand marshal of the first Nautical City Festival Grand Parade in 1977.
He earned appointments and served under five governors, John Swainson, George Romney, William Milliken, James Blanchard and John Engler. Upon his retirement from the Michigan Travel Commission in 1995, he had served 33 years on state boards, believed to be a record of longevity.
He is a past president of the Rogers City Area Chamber of Commerce and had been associated with the board of directors since 1949. He achieved an honorary lifetime board of directors seat and remained active into his 90s.
The chamber recognized him with a dinner in his honor in 1984 and again in 2011 when he earned a lifetime achievement award and had Nov. 5, 2011 declared Harry H. Whiteley Day in Rogers City.
Remaining active and sharp even in his 90s, his column in the Advance has kept his ideas in the forefront of public opinion.
Harry had a building named after him in May 2013 by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the Harry H. Whiteley Conservation Education BuildingIt is an honor he called something that “couldn’t have been any nicer thing to happen to me.”
Whiteley himself had the chance to respond to the roasts and toasts and offered advice at the 2011 banquet. Even at his age, Whiteley said then, he had energy and ambition to attack each new day.
“For whatever I have done all these years, I attribute it to good luck and being in the right place at the right time. Had I not met a man named Fred Alger, I would never have had the wonderful experience of traveling with Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower on his campaign train when he ran for president of the United States. Had I not traveled the state while working with Mr. Alger while working as his campaign manager when he ran for governor, and met most every newspaperman in every town that had a newspaper, I would never have been president of the Michigan Press Association,” he said.
It is very clear Rogers City has benefited by the energy of Harry H. Whiteley.