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Columbia Missourian

Carolyn 'Lynn' Whitworth enjoyed literature, good conversation

By Katie Yaeger
January 30, 2013 | 10:07 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Both in her personal correspondence to her mother and her professional life in libraries, Carolyn Whitworth was "a woman of letters."

Carolyn "Lynn" McGill Whitworth, a 50-year Columbia resident, died Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013, at her home in Roseville, Calif. She died after complications from a fall in her home. She was 91.


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"She was personable and had a lot of integrity and class," Nancy White, her daughter, said. "She was very well-educated. She held herself to high standards." 

Mrs. Whitworth was born Dec. 6, 1921, in Cleveland, Ohio, to Neil Worthington McGill and Helen Frances Whiting. As a child, she would swim in nearby Lake Erie and travel to Canadian lakes with her father. 

"It inspired in her a love for the water," Brad Whitworth, her son, said. 

After graduating from Lakewood High School in 1939, Mrs. Whitworth received her bachelor's degree in fine arts from Oberlin College in 1943. After her college graduation, she returned to Cleveland and created window displays for Halle Bros. Co. 

Mrs. Whitworth married her former classmate and childhood neighbor, Kernan Bradley "Whit" Whitworth Jr., in Princeton, N.J., where he was pursuing master's and doctoral degrees in 18th-century literature. 

Following Kernan Whitworth's graduation, the couple moved near Philadelphia and Bryn Mawr College, where Kernan Whitworth taught and Mrs. Whitworth worked as a secretary to the director of the library. 

They spent a year in Paris, France, while Kernan Whitworth studied at the Sorbonne, and moved to California upon their return to the U.S. in 1951. They both worked at the University of California, Los Angeles, Mrs. Whitworth as the secretary to the person in charge of the library's reference department. 

The couple had two children, Brad and Nancy, in Santa Monica, Calif., and the four moved to Columbia after Kernan Whitworth accepted a full professorship in MU's romance language department. Mrs. Whitworth worked as the Stephens College library director's secretary. 

Mrs. Whitworth's love for literature transcended the workplace into her home life. She began introducing her children to books early, reading stories to them when she tucked them into bed, Brad Whitworth said. She and her children would attend story hour at the Columbia Public Library together. She always gave her children books for Christmas.

"The first situation comedy I ever watched — I think it was 'Bewitched' — was when a babysitter came," Brad Whitworth said. 

While the children were growing up, Mrs. Whitworth and her family would go swimming at Stephens Lake and attend cultural events in Columbia, including ballet performances at Stephens College. They vacationed at Crystal Lake in Benzie County, Michigan, and took road trips to  to visit the children's grandparents. 

Although they were separated by distance, Mrs. Whitworth was very adamant about keeping in touch with her mother. Each week she looked forward to receiving her mother's letters on topics such as church and the weather.

Mrs. Whitworth retired in 1982. She then cared for her husband, who had Alzheimer's disease, until his death in 1988. 

She kept active by line-dancing and doing water aerobics, and she would go out for lunch with friends. 

Mrs. Whitworth stayed sharp by reading books and the New Yorker, playing cards, playing the piano and doing crossword puzzles.

"Doing the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle 2 1/2 days before she died was pretty amazing," Brad Whitworth said.

She wasn't into "Wheel of Fortune" or soap operas, Brad Whitworth said. "Being surrounded with people with whom she could have stimulating conversation was important to her," he said.

Mrs. Whitworth is survived by her sister, Miriam Strickler of Huntington Harbour, Calif.; son, Brad Whitworth of Los Altos, Calif.; daughter, Nancy White of Roseville, Calif.; and three grandsons, Bradley and Joey Whitworth and Jordan White.

Her husband, Kernan Bradley "Whit" Whitworth Jr., died earlier.

Burial was in Memorial Park Cemetery.

Donations be made in Mrs. Whitworth's memory to Oberlin College & Conservatory Development and Alumni Affairs Office, 50 W. Lorain St., Oberlin, OH 44074.