Boyd “Whitey” Palmer

We gather this afternoon to lay the earthly remains of Boyd, “Whitey” Palmer to rest. We mourn his loss, celebrate His life, and hold firmly to the promise of Jesus.

Paul declared, “if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.” [2 Cor 5:1] With that promise in our minds let’s turn to prayer,

Our Father, we come to you this afternoon in faith. We come reminding ourselves that your promise is true, Your way is perfect, and Your strength is sufficient for our every need. Today we place our hope anew in the One who rose from the dead. Jesus told us that He who believes in Him will live even though He dies.

Whitey believed in you. Today in the sadness of loss we ask that you help us see beyond the temporal limits of our understanding. We ask that you remind us that Whitey is not dead, he has only cast away the worn out outer shell which no longer serves its purpose. Even as we feel the ache of loss we ask you to help us also to grasp the idea of eternal life.  We ask that You be glorified in our remembrances and we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 Boyd L “Whitey” Palmer was born April 7, 1937 in Downing, Missouri, the son of Luel and Lillian Smith Palmer. On September 25, 1960 he married Joy L. Faeth in Fort Madison, Iowa.

He was a graduate of Terre Haute High School and served in the US Army 1960 – 1962. He owned and operated Palmer’s Auto Sales and Service in LaHarpe for many years. Earlier he operated a service station in LaHarpe and drove a bulk fuel truck for Ayers Oil Company in the Fountain Green and LaHarpe area. He enjoyed playing cards, shooting pool and being involved in auto racing. He worked in the pit crew with the Bob Ensminger Modified Race Team and later work with his son and nephews’ cars. He was an active member of the LaHarpe Union Church where he served as part of the “Carpenters Crew” on the mission trips to Mexico, chaperoned a youth mission trip and served had served on the Physical Properties Committee..

“Whitey” went home to be with the Lord on Sunday, May 16, 2010 in Macomb. He is survived by his wife, Joy; one son, Eric (Cathy) Palmer of LaHarpe, one daughter, Amy Palmer of LaHarpe, three grandchildren, Brad (Jeni) Richardson, Amy (Brian) Brown and Darcie Palmer, five great-grandchildren (Carissa, Brock and Max Richardson and Bailey and Laney Brown), one brother, Harley (Shirley “Rusty”) Palmer of LaHarpe and many nieces and nephews.

He was preceded in death by his parents, one sister, Lois Bennett and one brother, Hollis Palmer.
Whitey grew up in a loving and supportive family. He and his brothers would fight with each other but it was just brotherly kinds of conflict. One thing was sure: if you messed with one of the boys you were going to have to mess with all of them! They remained close through the years.

At 10 years old Whitey almost died. His appendix burst and Dr. Mueller had to do emergency surgery.

Whitey discovered early on that he had a sense about cars and motors. He was the kind of guy who could do, fix, or build anything he wanted to do. Sometimes you did have to get him to want to do something by telling him it was impossible to do. He was always up for a challenge. He served in the motor pool in San Antonio while he was in the Army.

Whitey always knew what he liked and knew what he wanted. He was a man who was always true to his word. If he told you he would do something, you could count on the fact that he would do it. If he said, “we’ll see” then you would have to wait and see if he would do it. Whitey waited until later in life to be baptized simply because he wanted to be sure of his commitment. He didn’t want to commit himself to Christ if he wasn’t prepared to follow through on that commitment.

Whitey apparently was sure that he liked Joy as soon as he met her at a wedding. I know this because he asked her to marry him on their third date (which apparently was around two days after their first date.) Joy, who fell in love with Whitey’s eyes, realized that getting engaged after three dates was just crazy. She put him off until they had dated for three weeks. They were married six weeks later! This September would have been their 50th wedding anniversary. And they said it wouldn’t last . . . Joy and Whitey were a team. That was never more evident than in the care Joy gave to the “love of her life” these last weeks.

Whitey loved cars. He had his first mechanics job with Harley while they were in California. They lied about their experience but endeared themselves to the owner of the shop when they fixed his Ambassador, a car that no one else had been able to fix. They understood cars. He loved working as a mechanic. He also enjoyed being part of the racing scene where he worked in the pits. When that time was over he enjoyed watching NASCAR races. He liked a bunch of the drivers but probably liked Jeff Gordon the best.

Whitey was the “reject man” at the Morton Auto Auction. No one was able to fool Whitey about problems with a car they purchased. I have a theory. They could make up whatever story they wanted but Whitey could see through the stories. I think one of the things that made him such a good mechanic was that he had learned to listen and heard things that other people don’t hear. What he had learned with cars he also applied to people.

Whitey had an ornery side. When you saw his sly smile you could be sure you were about to get zinged. Whitey didn’t say much . . . but he also didn’t miss much.  Even when he was in the hospital it would seem he wasn’t paying attention and then all of a sudden he’d say some quip and he had everyone laughing.

His sense of humor was there all his life. When he and joy got married everyone decorated the car Whitey was going to drive. But when it was time to leave they learned the decorated car was merely a decoy. The new husband and wife took off in another car.

I am sure that Whitey had no trouble “holding his own” with the Ayerco crowd. He enjoyed the banter. He aimed to be there every morning when the doors opened.

I learned early that though Whitey didn’t say a lot, when he did have something to say it would be worth hearing. Even in Bible Study he would often have an insight that was as simple as it was profound.

Whitey could look pretty intimidating but he always had a tender heart. He was always looking for ways to make someone else’s life easier. He loved his children and adored his grandchildren. His big heart extended to the children and residents of Mexico and to needy people in our own community.

Whitey went on a number of mission trips: to Mexico five or six years as part of the Carpenters Crew; to the Red Bird mission once; and he even chaperoned the youth group at a Group Work Camp in Savannah Georgia. He did this because he wanted to serve the Lord and help others. He understood that true faith is revealed through our hands and feet.

I experienced his kindness several times.  He made a used car “more affordable so I could purchase it”.  One time he even personally financed the car for me. When Rick was in an accident and we were down a car, Whitey was there to offer us a car to drive “until we were ready to replace the car that was totaled. One time after what was I believe a difficult budget meeting Whitey heard that I was frustrated and felt unappreciated. He came into the office, sat down, and he he asked me what it would take for me to know I was appreciated. He was prepared to reach into his pocket and give me whatever money I needed to feel appreciated. I didn’t need any money . . . his genuine concern had done what no amount of money could do. Whitey was a man “tuned in” to people just like he was to engines.

Whitey was also tuned in to the realities of life. He was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis early in life. We’ll never know how much pain he endured. He remained positive when he had problems with his eyes. He was determined when he had his knee replaced (I believe it was the Saturday after he had moved to the La Harpe Nursing home that I went up to the Lion’s breakfast and he walked in with his walker. He was a tough and determined man.

When the heart problems developed Whitey knew what the stakes were. He knew his odds weren’t good. He was willing to work hard to get better but he wasn’t afraid to die. He knew where he was going. He had trusted Christ and followed Him for a long time. He was ready.

David wrote,

    Who may worship in your sanctuary, Lord?

Who may enter your presence on your holy hill?

    Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right,

speaking the truth from sincere hearts.

    Those who refuse to gossip

or harm their neighbors

or speak evil of their friends.

    Those who despise flagrant sinners,

and honor the faithful followers of the Lord,

and keep their promises even when it hurts.

    Those who lend money without charging interest,

and who cannot be bribed to lie about the innocent.

Such people will stand firm forever.

This Psalm makes me think of Whitey. It seems to describe the kind of character that he possessed. Please understand, Whitey knew he was not blameless. He understood that no one can “earn” eternal life. It is a gift not a wage. Whitey understood that his only hope was God’s grace and mercy. However, once he trusted Christ he also followed Him. He was not just a superficial believer . . . he was a genuine believer. The description of David seems like it is describing Whitey

  • He spoke the truth from a sincere heart
  • He always tried to do what was right, fair and ethical
  • He refused to gossip
  • He always kept his promises
  • His integrity was unassailable

He was a man who lived out what he professed to believe.

Again, I am not for a minute trying to say that Whitey is in Heaven because he was a good man. He was a good man by the worlds standard but like the rest of us, he fell far short of God’s standards. I am confident Whitey is in heaven not because he was good man, but because he put his trust in a great Savior. Whitey was humble enough to rest in the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ.

After spending his life enjoying racing, Whitey wanted to finish strong in his own life. The author of the Hebrews wrote,

let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

I really felt that Whitey had his eyes fixed on Jesus. When he was in ICU at Genesis he made sure I knew that he was not afraid . . .He was trusting Christ. One of the things he was always open for was to have someone pray for him.  One time I took his hand and commented that “we wouldn’t tell anyone that we were holding hands.” He said, “I don’t care who knows”. And he didn’t.

Whitey Palmer was not afraid of dying. Perhaps he would have said with Paul.

I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.

It wasn’t that Whitey had given up on life. He loved his family. He was still deeply in love with his bride. However, if his work was done, he didn’t want to sit and linger . . he was ready and willing to go home. He understood that for those who put their trust in Christ death is not the end . . . it is really the beginning.

In my opinion Whitey could say with Paul.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. [2 Timothy 4:7-8]

We are going to miss Whitey Palmer – a lot. I am going to miss his wisdom, his sense of humor, and his example. We will miss his big heart and all the ways he sought to care for us.

In the times of sorrow it is our job to remember that Jesus has promised that “he was preparing a place for us.” This is not the end. Today He is with Christ in paradise. The pain is gone, the limitations taken off, the ways of God are clear. Today he is rejoicing and more alive than he could ever dream he could be. Those who have truly trusted Christ; who have moved beyond merely professing faith to actually trusting and obeying Christ in their daily life, will be reunited with Whitey someday.

Whitey’s part of the race is over. It is our job now to continue the next leg of the race. As we do we would be wise to listen to what Whitey can teach us. He taught us

  • That integrity is to be pursued and prized
  • That a sense of humor begins when we stop taking ourselves too seriously
  • That we need to learn to listen before we can understand.
  • That how we keep our word is how others will measure our character.
  • That true faith is seen in the things we do
  • That love requires being willing to take a risk
  • That giving to others is never a waste of time
  • That there is such a thing as “love at first sight”
  • That those who put their true trust in Christ need not be afraid.

We are going to miss Whitey. I’m sure he would tell us today to trust Christ and give it all you’ve got. He’d encourage us to run the race of life to win the prize of the Lord’s “Well done”. . . . just like he did.

Let’s pray together.

 Father, we thank you for the life of Boyd Palmer. Thank you for his passion, his heart, his skill, his integrity, his kindness and his faith. On this day we are especially grateful that you drew him to yourself and the experience of grace.

 We ask you to help us as we cling to your promise today. Help us as we look to the resurrection of Jesus as we trust that those who truly put their trust in Him will live even though they die.

 Lord we ask you to open your arms wide to welcome Whitey into the place that you have prepared for him. Grant him the richness of your mercy and grace. Open the door to the joy of which we cannot yet conceive.

 Fill the hole in lives with your comfort. Help us to be faithful in this time of loss even as we ache. Help us also to reflect on what we saw of you in Whitey and then to build on that knowledge in our own lives.

We bow before you as the Lord of life. We turn to you as our blessed hope. And we do this all because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  Amen.

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