I am writing in reference to the article “Guns and Hoses returns to St. Ives in Johns Creek,” which was written by Nicole Dow and appeared online in the Johns Creek Neighbor on May 22, 2013. I am the mother of the late Johns Creek police officer Sgt. Greg Whitaker, for whom the Greg Whitaker Memorial Golf Tournament was named at its inception in March 2011. I appreciate the coverage of the event by the Johns Creek Neighbor; however, the article contained major errors that have caused undue distress to our family. You cannot imagine the shock and total disbelief when we read the following sentence and the quote from Mr. Wayne Carrel of the Johns Creek Business Association:
The namesake of the tournament —Greg Whitaker — was a former Johns Creek police officer who died unexpectedly, leaving his family in need of assistance.
“He passed away and there wasn’t even enough money to bury the gentleman,” Carrel said.
I have no idea where this information originated, but it is absolutely untrue. My son was a hard-working, dedicated police officer who was always an excellent provider for his family. He or his family did not request assistance, and the tournament was planned before he passed away. He fully expected to attend the first annual tournament, which was scheduled for March 28, 2011. Unfortunately, Greg passed away on March 2 due to a pulmonary embolism following spinal surgery. His caring, supportive fellow officers and Johns Creek firemen planned the tournament to help with future medical expenses and other expenses following his surgery and recovery. After his death, plans proceeded for what would become an annual event, for which his family is grateful. Funds from the first tournament were given to Greg’s widow, Becky, and their two children. These funds were never intended for, or needed, to bury my son. Such a statement couldn’t be further from the truth because my son, a University of Georgia graduate with a BBA degree, managed his finances efficiently and planned for the future so that his family would never have to worry if something happened to him. As a police officer, he knew that there was no guarantee that he would return home when he left for work each day.
I hope you can understand the hurt that my family felt as we read what was written about my son, knowing that your readers most likely believe that my son died without providing for his family and without burial funds. After reading the article, Greg’s widow emailed Ms. Dow on Thursday, May 25, asking her for an immediate retraction of the two sentences referenced above. Within an hour, she received the following response in an email from Ms. Dow: “In response to your email, the offending sentence and quote have been retracted from the story posted May 22.” For me, this is not satisfactory. Yes, I am glad the “offending” sentence and quote were removed from the story, but what does that do to change the impression of the 304 readers who had already viewed the article? What I would like to see is a note at the end of the article stating that the original article was edited on May 23 because of incorrect information contained in the two sentences regarding the family’s needing assistance and especially the statement “there wasn’t even enough money to bury the gentleman.” Both the online version and the printed weekly edition should acknowledge the reason for the retraction.
I appreciate your assistance as I attempt to make things right and to reflect positively on my son’s image and dedication to his family’s well-being. He deserves better and I expect better.
We are also appreciative of the Johns Creek community and the St. Ives Country Club for their compassion and support and to the Johns Creek Business Association for working with the Johns Creek Police and Fire Departments on organizing this year’s tournament. We know that the tournament is for a good cause, and we are proud for our son’s name to be associated with such a worthwhile event.
Ellen Whitaker, Watkinsville