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Don Whaley leaves a lasting legacy through his love for the Pancake House and its people

Don Whaley touched thousands of lives through his years of service in Statesboro Kiwanis, always working with a twinkle in his eye and a tireless love for his people and our community. Don passed away on October 19, during this year's Fair Week, leaving behind a legacy that will impact Bulloch County for years to come.
Don Whaley stands in the damaged Pancake House after a storm tore through it in early 2020

Donald Colley Whaley was cut from special cloth that is rare these days. He was a tireless worker at whatever he was involved with, and loved just as tirelessly—whether his family, his friends, hunting or fishing, riding his tractor, the Kiwanis Club of Statesboro, and most especially his God, the level of affection Don exhibited was second to none.

When he went to be with his Lord on October 19, 2023, at age 90, he left behind folks who will miss his laughter, his twinkling eyes, and that exuberant affection that Don showered on his people.

Not quite a Bulloch County native, Don was born in Savannah in 1930, but six months later his family moved just outside Statesboro. He deserves to at least be an honorary native of Bulloch, because he spent many hours working to make our county a better place, through his teaching at Georgia Southern College, as a deacon and Sunday School teacher at First Baptist Church, and especially as a Kiwanian and manager of the famed Kiwanis Pancake House.

Don speaking at a fair planning meeting in 2018

For those who don’t already know, the proceeds from the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair, and the Pancake House, are put back into the surrounding communities—through college and university scholarships, support for the Food Bank, funds for the Boys & Girls Club, enhancements for local law enforcement—and the list literally is too long for this article.

The point is, Don touched thousands of lives through the years with the funds he helped raise. Maybe more importantly, Don touched the lives of the people who he recruited to work alongside him in the Pancake House, as well as the thousands who flocked to the fair, with pancakes and sausage at the top of their lists of fair plans.

While the pancakes and sausage are legendary, the nostalgia of eating under the open pavilion, with the sights and sounds of the midway all around, happy faces by the hundreds, and a perfect scenario for people to forget their problems for a few hours, enjoy the excitement of watching happy children, and create memories to last a lifetime—that’s what Don contributed to, year after year.

Pancakes made to order by Mr. Don

Don’s obituary lists some of his many accomplishments, as well as those most dear to him, his family. And while it captures the more measurable attributes of a life well lived, the things he did which can’t be measured by educational degrees, or positions held, or professional accomplishments are his greatest legacy. As fellow Kiwanian, Horace Harrell, said in a tribute to Don, “We all say that Don loved the Pancake House. That’s not quite right—he loved the people that worked in the Pancake House and the people that came to eat there.”

Horace hits home with his appraisal of Don. He was all about the people he encountered, and it is those people who will miss him most.

Horace added, “None of us still here know what Heaven is really like, but I do know that he’s enjoying seeing the family and friends that were waiting for him to come home.”

And to be sure, he’ll be waiting on all of us with that same Don smile and twinkling eye.

Donald Colley Whaley, 1930-2023