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Alfred Whittaker

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Alfred Whittaker, 88, Chair Emeritus and founder of Opportunity International, Oak Brook, IL, one of the leading micro-finance and micro-enterprise organizations of the world, died this past Wednesday, September 27, 2006. Through the efforts of other key individuals like David Bussau, Ross Clemenger, and Larry Reid, Al's initial vision of providing opportunities for people in chronic poverty to transform their lives is now being realized by hundreds of thousands of individuals each day. In 2005 Opportunity International served 810,000 clients in 42 separate countries by loaning $345 million dollars at the rate of 8% interest to the poorest of the poor of the world. 86% of the loans made in 2005 were made to women. Men and women were able to finance fruit and vegetable businesses, raise poultry, make decorative baskets, purchase mopeds to operate taxi services, purchase boats and nets for fishing businesses, and to finance a myriad of other small entrepreneurial businesses. Born on January 28, 1918, Al grew up in Roselle Park, New Jersey. After graduating from high school, he was hired by the A.C. Neilsen Company. After work, Al attended classes in the evening at New York University from which he received his bachelors degree in business. He married Marion Crocket (deceased 1998) on November 25, 1939. In 1943 he took a leave of absence from the A.C. Neilsen Company and went to officer candidate school with the Navy at Harvard University in Boston. He was assigned to the destroyer U.S.S. Wren DD 568 on which he served as communications officer from 1943 to the end of WWII. His ship saw heavy combat in the taking of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. On December 24, 1945, Al was reunited with Marion and his daughter Maryann. Two other children, Donald and Douglas followed. Al is survived by his three children, Maryann Rupp (Dean), Donald Whittaker (Ruth) and Douglas Whittaker (Susan); six grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. In 1948 Al joined the advertising firm of Benton and Bowles in New York. Ten years later he was hired by Bristol-Myers where he became marketing director. Subsequently, he served as president of Bristol-Myers International Division where he took great satisfaction in helping to form one of the first international business partnerships between Bristol-Myers and a Japanese Pharmaceutical company. In 1968 Al joined the Mennen Company where he served as Executive Vice President. Three years later Al left the ''for profit'' business world and entered the ''not-for-profit'' business world, sensing a call by God to help people in under-developed countries. Al and his wife, Marion, moved to Washington D.C. where Al began to put together an organization called Institute for International Development (IIDI) which is now known as Opportunity International. For the past 14 years Al has been a resident of Shell Point Village in Ft. Myers, Florida. Shell Point became his home; a place that he loved for it was staffed with people who treated him with great dignity, care and affection. Al was an unassuming man of faith who loved the Lord Jesus Christ, his wife, his family, and his friends. He was a joyful man who loved many and who was loved by many. A memorial service will be held at the Village Church in Shell Point Village, Ft. Myers, Florida, on Tuesday, October 3, 2006, at 1:15 p.m. In lieu of flowers, memorials would be appreciated for Opportunity International, 2122 York Road, Suite 340, Oak Brook, IL. 60523. www.opportunity.org 800-793-9455.
Published in a Chicago Tribune Media Group Publication on Oct. 3, 2006
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