(Photo by Paul Struck.)
I was born and raised in Aurelia, where my family has literally lived since the town was founded. My great-great-great-grandfather, Reuben Whitney, operated a lumber yard and grain elevator in town. He also built the first home in the town of Aurelia in the 1870s. His family lived there, of course, but he also operated his office out of the home. This home is now owned by the town of Aurelia and operated as the Heritage House by the Aurelia Historical Society, who have tried to keep the home in as much of the original period style as possible.
Reuben's son, William ("W.G.") had a son of his own, Roy, who was my grandfather. Roy and his wife Pearl (nee Coombs) had two children - my father Rex, who passed away in 1998, and his sister Lois (Christensen). Lois died in 2004. My dad and his family moved to Aurelia after dad's mom died when he was a teenager. Roy ran the grain elevator in Aurelia and died in 1951, one year after I was born.
I am the youngest of three children born to Rex and Lelia Honsbruch Whitney. My brother Doug is seven years older than I. He graduated from Aurelia High School in 1961, from ISU in 1965, and earned his Masters at Ohio University in 1967 He later earned a doctorate degree while employed at the University of Iowa, and formerly worked for the ACT testing company and was Director of the national GED program when he lived in Washington, D.C. He currently lives with his wife Nancy in Glendale, Arizona, where they direct a Sylvan Learning Center. My sister June has lived in St. Paul, Minnesota for more than thirty years. She is an RN by training, working primarily in hospital emergency and cardiac care rooms. She is now retired.
I have lived in Aurelia all my life, with the exception of a few months after my marriage in 1970, when my wife Janet and I lived in Storm Lake, while I finished up my Bachelor's Degree at Buena Vista. We moved back to Aurelia after graduation. Janet was employed at Sunset Knoll Nursing Home for many years , but has worked as a teller at First Trust and Savings Bank in Aurelia since 1990.
After graduation from BV, I went to work as a Mental Health Worker (now called a Resident Treatment Worker) on the closed men's ward at the Mental Health Institute, and I was employed at the MHI for 25 years in a variety of positions. Following six years as an RTW, I worked first as a Social Work Associate, then as a Social Worker, on the Chemical Dependency Unit This was for a total of 8 years. This was followed by a few years as a Social Work Supervisor and then Acting Social Work Director, before I was appointed as the Director of the new Psychiatric Rehabilitation Program.
After a few years in this position, (during which time I earned my Master's Degree in Social Work at the University of Nebraska at Omaha), a position opened up for a rehabilitation couselor with the Vocational Rehabilitation Services, a division of the Department of Education.
I spent the next 8 1/2 years in that position, counseling disabled adults and helping them reach their employment goals. The ironic thing is that, though I had a caseload of about 100 clients in two counties (Cherokee and Ida), my office was actually still at the MHI.
My wife Janet (nee Winterhof) and I have been married for more than 35 years, and are very proud of our two children. Rhonda, 35 , is a college graduate, a Navy veteran, married for almost 10 years to Lieutenant Joseph Fraser, and most importantly, will be presenting us with our first grandchild in early June. Rhonda and Joe live in Woodbridge, Virginia and work in Washington, D.C.
Our son Aaron graduated from Aurelia High School in 1993 (he and his sister were the fifth generation of my family to do so). He then graduated from Iowa State University and worked for a time in Chattanooga, Tenn. for the Pella Corporation. For the past few years, he has lived in the Twin Cities, and has been working as a self-employed Project Manager, currently contracted on a project with the Best Buy Corporation. He also is employed on an "as needed" basis as a Mortgage Broker. While in the cities, he also earned his Master's Degree at "the U."
Last April, I began writing on a part-time basis for the Chronicle Times, and re-discovered my love of writing. When an opportunity for full-time employment arose in January of this year, I left my "home" of 33 years to begin a new adventure as a full-time writer at the Chronicle Times. I will be helping cover local area high school sports and meetings, as well as continuing my occasional "Basic Biittner" column , and starting a new bi-weekly Entertainment page.
I'm very happy to be here, working with a great group of people to bring readers "all the news that's fit to print", as they say at some other paper.