Neal Dale Whitaker was born May 3, 1947 in Topeka, Kansas to Dale and Jessie Whitaker. He was the eldest of three sons. He passed away suddenly at the Whitaker Mountain Home near Estes Park, Colorado on October 21, 2012. Neal is survived by his wife Karla, Topeka; children Tracy Nelson (Michael) and granddaughter Grace, Wichita, Blake Whitaker, College Station, Texas, Paige Whitaker, Lincoln, Nebraska, and stepdaughters Katherine Kincaid (Brandon), Kansas City, Missouri, and Betsy Beam, Los Angeles, California. He also survived by his parents, Jessie and Dale, Topeka; brothers Mark Whitaker (Barbara), Auburn and Tom Whitaker (Vicki), Topeka; and his nephew Spencer Whitaker (Mollie) Denver; and niece Katarina Whitaker and great nephew Hunter Brown. Neal graduated from Hutchinson High School in 1965. He was nationally recognized for his yearbook photography and was a member of the Skywriters Drum and Bugle Corps sponsored by the American Legion. He played the French Horn. He was an Eagle Scout in Troop 301, Hutchinson. He attended Kansas State University and graduated from Sterling College in 1969 with a degree in psychology. He was a staff photographer for the Hutchinson News and the Manhattan Mercury. He continued his work as a photo journalist at KWCH Channel 12 Hutchinson and Wichita. During the Vietnam War he served in the Air National Guard. Neal was elected to the Kansas House of Representatives in 1972 at the age of 25 from the 91st House District representing Northwest Wichita. He served in the Kansas Legislature for 11 years. During that time he was instrumental in shaping alcoholic beverage policy. From the early 1970s until legislation passed in 1986 he was a tireless advocate for bringing Kansas into the 20th century with liquor by the drink. The result was some of the most progressive liquor laws in the country at that time. Neal holds the record of being the longest serving chair of the Federal and State Affairs Committee in the Kansas House of Representative. He was also a strong advocate for equal rights for women, open records for state government, citizen access to government and women's reproductive rights. After leaving the legislature he served as the Executive Director of the Kansas Beer Wholesalers Association until the time of his passing. During his tenure he was elected by his peers to serve as the national President of the Wholesale Beer Association Executives. Neal loved life and lived it to the fullest. He was an avid K-State fan, and enjoyed hunting, fishing and boating. He had a lifelong passion for photography and chronicled all of his family's good times and important milestones. He loved the Rocky Mountains and spent as much time as he could there. Family and friends are invited to celebrate Neal's life at an Open House planned for Sat., Oct. 27 from 1-3 p.m. at Neal and Karla's home, 6710 SW Dancaster Road in Topeka. Memorial contributions can be sent in his name to the Rocky Mountain Nature Association at http://www.rmna.org Neal Whitaker
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Published in Topeka Capital-Journal on Oct. 24, 2012