He was the son of Wayne A. and Helen Marie Taylor Whitnel.
He is survived by his wife of 59 years and 9 months, Freda Jo Morgan Whitnel; a daughter, Rochelle Croach and husband Jon; a son, Brett Whitnel and wife Laurie, all of Metropolis; four grandsons, Kyle Holley of O'Fallon, Mo., Jeremy Holley and wife Robin, Phillip and Christopher Whitnel, all of Metropolis; a great-grandson, Logan Holley of Perryville, Mo.; a stepgranddaughter, Rachel Bridges and husband George; and a great-stepgrandson, Bohdi Bridges, all of Enfield, Ill.; a great-stepgrandson, Jerret Croach of Hartsville, S.C.; a brother, Everett Whitnel and wife Marilyn of Vienna, Ill.; two sisters, Vera Schwarze of Ringgold, Ga., and Margaret Butler of Kingwood, Texas.
He was preceded in death by his parents and two brothers.
He was a deacon and longtime member of the Metropolis Church of Christ. He was a teacher and school administrator for many years, starting as a principal for Cypress Grade School. He worked for other Illinois school systems in Benson, New Athens, Litchfield and Glen Carbon. He served as the dean of students and academic dean at Shawnee Community College in Ullin, Ill., and was later a consultant for the local five-county Regional Office of Education. He was a past member of the Metropolis Rotary Club and also served on the Shawnee Community College Board of Trustees, Massac County Mental Health Board and Massac Memorial Hospital Board. He was also a U.S. Navy veteran, serving during World War II.
He received bachelor's and master's degrees from Murray State University and had completed advanced work toward his doctoral degree from Illinois State University in Normal and Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville.
Mr. Whitnel was an avid hunter and fisherman and loved the outdoors. He enjoyed working on older vehicles and restoring tractors, especially 8n Fords.
Visitation will be from 8 to 11 a.m. Saturday at the Aikins-Farmer Funeral Home in Metropolis.
Memorial services will begin at 11 a.m. Saturday at the funeral home, with Jim Faughn, Bryan McAlister and Mike Shank officiating.
At the request of the deceased, his body was donated to the SIU School of Medicine.