‘HOOSIERS WE’VE LOST’: Cook wanted eventually to go to film school

Editor’s note: This is one of a continuing online series of profiles of the more than 12,000 Hoosiers who have died from COVID-19. The stories are from 12 Indiana newspapers, including The Republic, who collaborated to create the collection to highlight the tremendous loss that the pandemic has created. The series appears daily at therepublic.com.

Name: Cody Whobrey

Town: Newburgh

Age: 33

Died: April 15, 2020

Having worked as a restaurant cook for more than a decade, 33-year-old Cody Whobrey dreamed of opening up his own food truck and expanding it into a food truck community. His sister Lacey Poag said he had the personality to be the public face of such an enterprise — effervescent, light, fun.

That’s the Cody Whobrey Morgan Castillo remembers, too. Castillo, owner of Newburgh restaurant The Tin Fish, was out delivering food during her restaurant’s shut down in April when she heard the news. She couldn’t believe that Whobrey, a healthy young man, had died of coronavirus.

Cody may have been a cook, the Tin Fish owner said, but he cheerfully dove into whatever task was asked of him. Friendly, likable, blessed with the gift of gab, he drew people to him.

“We had compliments all the time from our customers that would pull me aside or pull our general manager aside to compliment him,” Castillo said. “He was definitely a people person. He was just the nicest gentleman. We do miss him.”

Older than Cody by nearly 10 years, Poag always took care of him. She changed Cody’s diapers, rocked him to sleep, cleaned and bandaged him up after his many skateboard accidents. She walked through life with him, she said. She and her husband were the ones who found Whobrey the day he died.

From boyhood onward, he made funny homemade movies with his friends — at first with a huge, bulky camcorder loaded with videotape and later with an iPhone.

Their movies bespoke the rituals of boyhood — bicycle stunts, ninja and kung fu skits with costumes. Silliness. Sometimes it was just Cody offering his sarcastic and hilarious take on whatever subject crossed his mind. He had some comic timing, Lacey said.

Cody expressed a desire to go to film school and learn to be a director one day, but it never happened. “It still was in the back of his mind. You know, ‘Maybe someday I’ll go to film school,’ but it was just the means to get there wasn’t there, so he really dove into restaurant work and being a chef,” Poag said.

Poag desperately hopes Cody’s death at 33 will not be in vain. She struggled to find the words to convey that hope, falling back on warnings that are familiar to all Americans but still as important as ever.

“Wear a mask,” she said. “Social distance.”

— By the Evansville Courier Press