SAUGERTIES….Derek W. Whittaker, 58, of Mt. Airy Rd. passed away Friday, May 19, 2023, surrounded by family at his childhood residence after a battle with Gastric Cancer. Born February 5, 1965 in Kingston, he was the son of Roberta (Bobbi) Tompkins Whittaker and the late Albert C. Whittaker, Sr. Derek was universally known for his charisma, as his kindness, positivity, sense of humor and determination shined brightly.
A lifelong resident of the area, Derek was a graduate of Saugerties High School Class of 1983 where he lettered in Varsity Football, Basketball and Baseball and was awarded the Michael Bond Award, given to one student yearly for athletic excellence and character, as well as winning The Varsity Athlete of the Year Award. He received his Associate’s Degree from Columbia-Greene Community College and also played collegiately on their baseball team. He was a member of the Saugerties Athletic Association where he played A Division Softball and Basketball. Derek’s athletic career was celebrated in 2017 when he was inducted into the Saugerties Sports Hall of Fame. Derek was more than just a great athlete, he was also a great teammate who took pride in uplifting others. Derek’s enthusiasm for life on and off the field was contagious. Derek made every room he entered become more fun and cheerful. One of Derek’s greatest joys was being an uncle, and becoming the biggest fan and inspiration of his niece and nephews, eagerly attending all of their sports games, theatre and stand-up comedy performances. Derek was a member of The Quarryville United Methodist Church.
Derek attended SUNY Cortland with his future goal being to become a Licensed Physical Therapist. He was one semester away from graduating when Derek suffered Traumatic Brain Injury in a car accident at the age of 21. Initially considered by doctors to be a long-shot to survive or otherwise predicted to be in a life-long vegetative state, Derek embarked on an incredible journey to recovery after being in a state of comatose for 6 months. After years of demonstrating remarkable resilience and commitment to his recovery, Derek landed a full-time job at The Northeast Center for Rehabilitation and Brain Injury, where he was employed for 25 years in the positions of Rehab Technician, Housekeeper and for the last 16 years, as a Dietary Aide. Derek’s Contributions to the facility and inspirational impact on brain injury survivors and co-workers have culminated in Derek receiving well-deserved recognition. The facility gym is being renamed The Derek Whittaker Gym of Champions and The Derek Whittaker Courage Award will be the highest honor given yearly to a facility resident for their bravery and excellence in brain injury recovery.
Derek’s impact on his family and friends is immeasurable. Predeceased by his father, Albert Sr., survivors include his mother, Roberta of Saugerties, a sister, Bobbi Lynn and her husband, James Whiteford, two brothers, Albert C. Whittaker, Jr. and David and his wife Heidi Whittaker all of Saugerties. His nephews: Jared (Heather) Whiteford, Sean (Juda) Whiteford, Ryan, Justin (Aideen) and Jaden Whittaker, a niece, Jessica (Jeremy) Connor. His great nieces and nephews: Tristan, Hayden, Nova, Gillian and Colin. A Service of Remembrance will be held 10:00 AM, Thursday, May 25th at the Seamon-Wilsey Funeral Home, Inc. Cor. of John & Lafayette St., Saugerties. Private Interment services will be held at the Blue Mt. Cemetery. Family and friends will be received on Wednesday, May 24th from 4-7 PM The family would like to extend special thanks to Courtney Powell and the Hudson Valley Hospice staff for their loving care in Derek’s final days. Donations in Derek’s memory may be made to Hope Rocks, www.hoperocksny.com. Expressions of condolence may be shared with his family on Derek’s Tribute Wall at SeamonWilseyFuneralHome.com
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