On November 1, we lost Barry, father, grandfather and Ruth’s husband and life partner for almost sixty years. He was a gentle, quiet man with a wry sense of humor that drew both his friends and family to him. Barry loved the outdoors, gardening, hiking, biking, fishing and kayaking in the North Carolina mountains, as well as many trips to the country’s national parks. Having listened to political discussions in his home since he was a young child, his interest in politics never wavered. His family always brought him joy, especially during his last year, with phone calls from his sister to whom he felt very close. Despite his illness from symptoms of ALS, frequent visits from his children and grandchildren always renewed his energy and gave him joyful smiles.
The youngest of four, Barry lost his brothers, Ted and Paul, almost two years ago. His sister, Donna, lives in State College, Pennsylvania, where she is grieving his loss. He has many nieces and nephews living near his home town of Mount Union, Pennsylvania, as well as in Ohio and Michigan.
At Captain Jack Joint High School, Barry played varsity basketball and baseball. The Pittsburgh Pirates noticed him and summoned him to Forbes Field for a try out. Barry always laughed when he described the unnerving experience at bat. He said, “I never saw the ball.” At high school graduation, he was given the “Citizen of Tomorrow” award, and in life he fulfilled that expectation.
In 1959, Barry graduated from Gettysburg College, where het met Ruth. In the sixties he earned a Master’s degree at the University of Pennsylvania and a Doctorate in Pharmacology at the University of Illinois, Chicago. Thereafter he began his career in research and teaching at the University of Pittsburgh. In 1972, he joined the Department of Physiology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill, where he spent the remaining 45 years of his career, collaborating with co-investigators in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and the UNC School of Dentistry.
Barry’s lifelong passion was his work in neuroscience, especially his research and mentoring graduate students. His primary focus was on the brain. His research offered insights into mechanisms underlying pain sensation and its management. His work was influential in the field, across the United States, and internationally.
He leaves behind his son, Lee Whitsel; son, Eric Whitsel, his wife, Elizabeth, and their daughter, Anne; daughter, Jessica Whitsel Brown, her husband, Jeff, their son, Alec, their daughter, Hannah, and her fiancé, Dan Borchik.
Barry will always be remembered by Ruth as her ”sweet man.” For the rest of us, he’s Dad and Pappy. With much sadness, but many happy memories, we will carry him in our hearts.
Friends are welcome at a Celebration of Barry’s life at Carol Woods, 750 Weaver Dairy Road, Chapel Hill, from 4:00 to 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, November 24.