Joe Bill Whipker’s long career as a public servant was rooted in the fact that he loved interacting with people, colleagues said. Whipker served three separate terms on the Bartholomew County Council and 30 years in various capacities with the sheriff’s department.
Colleagues fondly recalled Whipker after learning of his death Friday at age 68. He suffered a heart attack in April, had several complications afterward and never quite recovered, his daughter Jenny Davis said.
“His pride and joy was working courthouse security. He loved people, and he loved his job,” said Mark Gorbett, a former Bartholomew County sheriff and current county councilman.
The courthouse security job involved checking people for weapons as they came into the courthouse and handling any serious incidents that arose in the building. But in that role he got to know many county employees and other people, and his outgoing personality made him perfectly suited for the job, Gorbett said.
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“I think I looked at him back then as an ambassador for the department,” Gorbett added.
That role of ambassador also was evident with Whipker’s involvement in the Shop With a Cop program, which helps children from needy families get toys and necessities near Christmas.
After Whipker retired as a patrol deputy in 2007, he continued with courthouse security until completely retiring in 2012.
Whipker was a hard worker with the sheriff’s department and did what he was supposed to do when he was supposed to do it, said first cousin Kenny Whipker, a former sheriff and former city councilman.
For example, Joe Bill Whipker and a telephone company employee rescued a 3-year-old boy from a burning home on Gladstone Avenue on Feb. 10, 1992. The Indiana Sheriff’s Association cited Whipker for heroism. However, the boy later died from his injuries.
Law enforcement became sort of a family affair. Their uncle Elmer Whipker used to let Joe Bill Whipker ride with him on patrols as a teenager, Kenny Whipker said. Kenny Whipker started with the sheriff’s department in 1980, a couple years before Joe Bill was hired.
Joe Bill Whipker earned the nickname “Shotgun Joe” while on the department because he always had that weapon handy in an emergency situation.
“I was an old country boy, so I grew up with a shotgun,” Joe Bill Whipker told The Republic for a story about his retirement in 2007.
Former county council colleague Keith Sells described Whipker as “a man who did what he wanted to do in life.” That included an interest in county government.
Whipker, a Republican, was elected as an at-large council member in 1992 but lost a re-election bid in 1996. He won election as the council’s District 3 representative in 1998 but passed on a re-election bid in 2002 to seek one of the three county commissioner positions. That bid was unsuccessful, but he won re-election to the council in 2004 as an at-large member. However, he lost a re-election bid in 2008.
Sells said Whipker was a great resource on the council because of his knowledge about the sheriff’s department and county government and described him as forthcoming and one who used good judgment.
“I thought so much of Bill,” said Evelyn Pence, who has served on the county council since 1980.
“He was very interested in the taxpayers. He wanted to do what was right. He wanted to do what was fair,” she added.
She said Whipker also was supportive of the agricultural community, such as when he was among council members who voted to retain and fill an open 4-H Extension educator position despite the county facing a budget crunch.
“He was very interested in the farm community,” Pence said.
Whipker always had a ready smile and was very proud of his family, Pence added.
He married Donna K. Walters on Oct. 7, 1967. She preceded him in death Aug. 5, 2014.
Whipker is survived by his daughter and a son, Kristopher.
The funeral will be at 10 a.m. Tuesday at Jewell-Rittman Family Funeral Home.