Harold Francis Witman


Harold Francis Witman


Harold (Red, Hal, Wit) Francis Witman was born June 6, 1924, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the second of four sons born to Edwin and Mary Frances (Grose) Witman. His father was a Methodist minister, and he was raised in parsonages across central Pennsylvania during the Great Depression.

He served in the Army Air Corps in a meteorology program during World War II, and was stationed first at Denison University, and then in Lincoln, Nebraska, before spending a year on Ascension Island. After his honorable discharge, he earned a B.S. in Education at Penn State University, followed by a Master of Science. At the Wesley Foundation, he met Carole Billstein, who was studying horticulture, and they were married on Aug. 14, 1948, in Altoona, Pennsylvania. Their devoted partnership lasted 71 years as they made homes and friendships across the country and raised four daughters. Their final move was to Billings in 2011.

He was a math and science teacher and educator. He invested himself in the lives of his students, and never failed to ask the wait staff at Mission Ridge Retirement Community about their classes and their dreams.

He loved the natural world — trees, mountains, wilderness — and thought it was his duty as an American citizen to show his kids the country. Family vacations were spent camping in national parks and exploring new places. He loved hiking, backpacking and mountain climbing, including Mt. Rainier and the highest peaks in the Cascade Range.

He enjoyed working with wood. Over the years he made several pieces of furniture, grandfather clocks, shelves, cabinets … and the canes that he used on his daily walks into his 90s. He appreciated his tools and his ability to fix things.

He loved to read, particularly American history, with an endless curiosity about the world. He was a student of the Lewis and Clark Expedition and had a singular respect for Sacajawea.

He was proud of his daughters’ education and accomplishments.

He loved a good joke, ice cream and Hershey’s chocolate.

He grieved the loss of his beloved wife Carole on Dec. 15, 2019, and spent the last few months, in his words, taking care of business. After a week in hospice care, he died peacefully on Sunday, March 29, 2020. He is survived by his daughters, Marjorie, Cynthia (Curt) Wrinkle, Nancy (Ken Obenauf) and Jan (Gary Geiman); his grandchildren, Karl Slagle, Michael Slagle, Rachael (David) Weasley, Sarah Witman (Dan Melamed), Luke (Katie) Obenauf; and one great-grandson, Zeke Weasley. He is also survived by his brother and sister-in-law, Henry and Louise Witman of Northfield, Minnesota; sister-in-law Carolyn Witman of Greensboro, North Carolina; and several nieces and nephews.

Memorials to Hope United Methodist Church, PO Box 50066, Billings, MT 59105; or the Faith and Leadership Fund (employee scholarship fund) with St. John’s United Foundation, 2429 Mission Way, Billings, MT 59102; or a scholarship of your choice.

Memorial service for Harold Witman will be at 10 a.m. Friday, July 24, at Hope United Methodist Church in Billings Heights.

Due to COVID restrictions, please RSVP to info@michelottisawyers.com as we will be limiting the gathering to 50 people; there will be no reception, and masks are expected.

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7 thoughts on “Harold Francis Witman”

  1. Mary Ann M Amato

    We are so sorry to hear of Mr. Witman’s passing and to hear that because of this terrible crisis we are in, you were unable to be there with him. I spoke to Marj on the phone and she told me what avid Penn State fans your parents and grandparents were. I will inform our office of Alumni Relations. Again, my sincerest sympathy.

    Mary Ann Amato
    Penn State Altoona

  2. I graduated from Annie Wright in 1971. I was awarded the Harold F Witman Mathematics Award when I was there as a boarding student. I must admit, in those years, anyone of authority wasn’t top of my hit parade. (-: As the years between me and graduation grew so did my fondness for Mr Witman. We reconnected years later and I had a number of fond conversations with him and even saw him once when he was in town. He was always steadfast and kind during some challenging years for many of the Annies! So sorry for your loss, but may your wonderful memories of him help heal your heart.
    Toni Orkney Hoffman
    Class of ’71

  3. M. Ashley Woods Bozeman

    Was sad to hear of Mr. Witman’s passing, but what a great long life he lived. He was the head of St. Martin’s Episcopal School when I was a student there. I remember him fondly.

  4. I met your mom and dad when they became patients at the dental office where I work. In no time at all they were favorites of all who work there. What kind and joy filled people they both were; amazing role models and just such fun people to visit with…even in a dental office! I cared very much for both of them and will miss them dearly. My sincere condolences to you in their passing.

    Patti Stein

  5. Don & Marilyn Floberg

    We feel blessed to have been friends of Wit and Carole at Mission Ridge, where we bonded through mutual interests. They were so proud of their daughters and I think we met all of them as they visited their fabulous parents. We feel their loss and send our love.

  6. Sabrina McAllister

    I am so sorry to hear about the passing of Mr. Witman (as I called him, others called him “Wit” in the Chattanooga community). He was a wonderful school leader, trustworthy and an all around good person. He called me a few years ago because he needed another Bright School pen. The one he received while Headmaster at Bright had stopped working. We sent a wood pen/pencil set and then a couple of years ago a wood pen made by one of the students in the woodshop. He was who he was because he chose the perfect mate, Carole. She was one of the most kind souls I have ever met. Again, heartbroken at their passing, but those who knew them in Chattanooga are better people for having known them.

  7. I just discovered that Wit and Carole have passed away. We communicated annually at Christmastime and when their letter was returned today, I had a sinking feeling.
    Wit hired me as a young music teacher in 1990 at Canterbury School in Ft. Wayne, IN. He truly invested himself in my career…always sending encouraging notes after a school concert or event. Such a wonderful supporter! We only worked together for a year before he moved on but our friendship remained. He and Carole had my husband and me to their beautiful home in Hot Springs Village numerous times where we were always treated like royalty. They even popped in to visit once when we lived in Upstate, NY. I’ve never met a man like Wit, so encouraging and a lover of people. How blessed I (and my husband) were to know Wit and Carole. So sorry for their passing, but what a full life they led.

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