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Featured Obituary: Chili master remembered for passion

Be it his grandsons, the Fair Tax movement or his awarding-winning chili, Herb Whitson’s inspirations fully consumed him. Whitson, 60, passed away March 18 from liver failure.

The computer analyst, a California native, moved to Georgia nearly three decades ago. Whitson and Julie, his wife of almost 42 years, came to Rockdale County from Stone Mountain in 2005 to be closer to their grandsons. Last fall, he was laid off from Convergys, where he was employed many years after working with Georgia Pacific and IBM. Whitson was also in the Army from 1967 to 1978, and then joined the Reserves until the late 1980s.

"My dad was such a passionate type of person. Once he got into something, he just jumped in full force," said Isabella Downs, his daughter. After relocating to Conyers, Whitson became very involved with the local Republican Party and was zealous about the Fair Tax.

He also traveled state-wide pitting his chili against the best. His concoction even won the top prize at The Stone Mountain Chili Cook Off, an event drawing over 300 teams from across the country. Paying tribute to him and his masterpiece recipe, a good friend, keeper of the secret formula, whipped up a batch for his family the Sunday after his death.

He enjoyed spoiling his two young grandsons, eight and six-year-old Pierce and Charlie. One of their favorite activities was swimming together in Whitson’s pool. "He was a big guy and would do a cannonball for them, and it would be like an earthquake in the pool. They’re sad their Opa won’t be at the pool this year," said Downs.

He is survived by his wife, Julie, daughter Isabella, son-in-law Michael, two grandsons, one brother and a sister. In lieu of a funeral, a celebration of Whitson's life was held at his house on March 20.