I must be getting old and sentimental because at 54 years old I decided to try to find out whatever I could about my brother I never met.
Darrell Glen Willhite was born 08/18/1957 in California to Patricia Ann Radantke Willhite and my father Dan Willhite. They were married on June 18th 1955 in Stanislaus County California. My father was 17 and Pat was 19. Seven moths later they had a full term baby boy.
Darrell was the second child of my father’s 1st marriage. David Willhite was born 01/24/1956. He had medical issues from birth and died 02/25/1956. He is buried at Rossville Cemetery in Oklahoma.
Darrell had developmental delays from the start. His parents separated shortly after he was born and his mother Pat retained physical custody of Darrell.
In 1972 or so a letter came to the home of my parents in Oklahoma. It said that the Stockton State Hospital where my brother had been living since 09/20/1973 could not contact Pat and my father was listed in the records as the other parent. I had not idea that I had another brother who I had never met. My father had no idea that Darrell had been moved from Porterville State Hospital where he was admitted on 09/03/1963. He also had no idea where Pat could be. I did track down the death of Patricia Ann Radantke on 04/07/1997 and as far as I know, she never tried to contact Darrell again after 1972.
Darrell spent the majority of his life in state hospitals. He was not ambulatory and was mentally handicapped. I was told by my cousin who worked at the institution he lived in that she visited with Darrell several times and although he could not speak, he was a happy individual. She said the staff were very fond of him.
I was shocked that I had a brother but I was young and oblivious. I was 11 years old when I learned about Darrell and being young I didn’t ask questions.
In 1976 we received a picture of Darrell taken on his 19th birthday. That is the only picture I have of him as an adult, I do have a few baby pictures but that is all.
Flash forward to 2015. I had started to wonder where my brother Darrell was buried when he died on May 13th 1981. I had read horror stories of residents in state hospitals who were never claimed by family and whose last resting place was unknown. It started me on a journey to find my brother, over 30 years after he died.
The internet is so awesome, I found out where I needed to contact to get information about state hospital former residents. Stockton State Hospital was closed in 1996 but the records from the hospital are at another location and I could request what was available about Darrell.
The record keeper was very nice and she gave me some suggestions on what to do. First I should get a death certificate, it might tell me where my brother was buried. Yay!
In October 2015, 25.00 later I had the death certificate. Darrell is buried, thank goodness, at Valley Home Memorial Park in Oakdale California. He was buried there on May 19th 1981. His cause of death is listed as:
- Cardiac arrest
- Mental retardation
I spoke with the lovely older lady who manages the cemetery and she verified that he is buried there but there is no marking on his grave.
I decided then that I would get my self from Oklahoma to visit my brother and I would get him a gravestone. Some of my coworkers even chipped in 120.00 to go towards the costs. They are awesome people. I love you Julie, Beverly and Charlotte!
I am now deciding if I want to order a gravestone here in Oklahoma where it will be much cheaper and transport it to California or if I just want to pay the $500 to the cemetery + $160 to set the stone and go the easy route.
I am determined that before this year of 2016 is over, my brother will be visited by family and he will have a gravestone.