Obituary: Thomas Whittaker / Eclectic artist and generous friend
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Thomas "Glen" Whittaker was a people person always ready to lend a hand. The artist died Saturday in UPMC St. Margaret after a brief illness. He was 62.
Mr. Whittaker was born in Philadelphia and attended Columbia University in New York City, where he studied comparative religion. That interest informed his art, said Marcy L. Pitts, his longtime companion.
They met through mutual friends when she visited her sister in Great Neck, Long Island. Mr. Whittaker had achieved recognition as an artist, Ms. Pitts said, exhibiting in galleries in New York City and the Hamptons. During visits over the years their friendship intensified, and in 1999 Mr. Whittaker moved to Pittsburgh and established a studio in Oakland. The couple resided in Forest Hills.
Ms. Pitts said "He was a bigger-than-life person. He read philosophy, poetry, history, magazines. Rarely did I see him read a novel. He was lots of fun, had a great sense of humor. He was very generous with his friendships."
After moving here, he walked up and down the street introducing himself to the neighborhood, she said. "In some cases he knew my neighbors before I did." One of his studio neighbors was a disabled veteran confined to a wheelchair. Mr. Whittaker would take him cookies and tea.
Although he kept up with the Pittsburgh art world, he never achieved a status comparable to what he enjoyed in the East. "He worked in the shadows here," Ms. Pitts said.
She encouraged him to participate in DinoMite Days, the 2003 fundraiser for the Carnegie Museum of Natural History for which artists painted fiberglass dinosaurs that were displayed citywide. "I told him it would be a good opportunity to make a piece of public art."
Mr. Whittaker worked on his "Cogitatio Aeterna" in the garage. "We called it Codgy. It was like our baby." The painted, collaged and mirrored work reflected Mr. Whittaker's artistic style.
"His art is very complicated with lots of layers and lots of textures," Ms. Pitts said. And he was particular about getting it right. "He never did a piece of bad art."
"He was a character. He was eclectic. He was a character who will be missed. He was used to the high life. I'm an average person," Ms. Pitts said. "But we helped each other. I took care of him. And he took care of me."
Besides Ms. Pitts, Mr. Whittaker is survived by three sisters.
A private memorial service is being planned. Donations may be made to the Volunteer Program Fund at UPMC St. Margaret in gratitude to the staff for the compassionate care Mr. Whittaker received in his final hours.
First Published February 22, 2013 12:00 am