Leo Whaley


Leo Jackson Whaley was born in Cleveland, Tennessee. His parents were Joseph Jackson Whaley and Minnie Marie Lamons from Sevier County, TN. Leo was the eleventh child in a family of twelve children. There were three boys and nine girls.

Leo Whaley
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Leo Jackson Whaley was born in Cleveland, Tennessee. His parents were Joseph Jackson Whaley and Minnie Marie Lamons from Sevier County, TN. Leo was the eleventh child in a family of twelve children. There were three boys and nine girls.  

Leo always loved his country. His oldest brother Loy was in WWII and came home with one arm missing but this did not keep him from wanting to go into the military.Another older brother, James served in the Army – both he and Leo were in the Korean War. Leo joined the US Navy at 17 and proudly served his country for almost four years (5 November 1952 - 19 July 1956). During the time he spent in the Navy he did a lot of ‘growing up’ and traveled all over the world.  One date was especially important to him. He was off the coast of Korea on the USS Tarawa (aircraft carrier) CVA 40, Fighter Squadron 43, Task Force 77, in the war zone, when the Korean Armistice was signed (July 27, 1953). This was on Leo’s 18th birthday. He said it was one of the happiest days of his life.

Less than a year after returning home from serving in the navy, he married Peggy Ellis from Cleveland, TN. Leo and Peggy had met while she was in high school and Leo in the Navy. They lived in Cohutta, GA most of their married life. Leo attended and graduated from Barber College on the military GI bill while they were in California. Leo and Peggy had three daughters – Sherri, Angela, and Traci.  

Leo worked as a barber for many years until he opened a construction business, Cohutta Construction Company. He later became involved in investment real estate and built houses, apartments, and other buildings. After the real estate was sold and before his retirement, he continued working in construction and maintenance. Leo was involved in Republican politics most of his adult life. He attended over 40 local, regional, and state conventions, plus represented Georgia at three National Conventions as an elected delegate and alternate in support of Ronald Reagan for president for the years 1976, 1980, 1984. Leo brought back the three-sided Georgia State Banner from the 1984 Dallas National Convention and proudly displayed it in the family room of his home.

The town of Cohutta, Georgia was incorporated in 1969, and Leo served as one of the first elected officials. He served as Town Councilman for the Town of Cohutta for over 25 years. He also served an elected four-year term (1 January 2005 - 31 December 2008) as a County Commissioner for Whitfield County, Georgia. Leo was a member of the Ruritan Club, Cohutta Masonic Lodge  F&AM No. 64 (Past Master and 60 year Mason), Order of the Eastern Star, Shrine organization, American Legion, and VFW.  

Leo joined Cohutta First Baptist Church in1963 by baptism. Years later, he was ordained as a deacon by the church and served on many committees. He was very active and considered being a deacon one of the most important parts of his life.  

In the years before Leo’s death, he spent a good deal of his time working in his beloved garden and yard. He loved to ride on his tractor and dig in the earth. He had a large vegetable garden and a beautiful orchard. He grew many fruit trees - apple, pear, plum, fig, etc. - plus he grew blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, and grapes (muscadines, scuppernong, white and grape). Leo made jelly and loved visiting and sharing his bounty with family and friends. He always kept jelly in his truck to give to friends he visited and also at the Burger Den (where he spent most mornings, visiting and chatting with friends). He also enjoyed spending time with his grandchildren.

FREEDOM SINGS U.S.A. – Leo attended weekly meetings held by Freedom Sings U.S.A. in Chattanooga, TN. Don Goodman and Steve Dean wrote a song for Leo - “Old Sailor”. He loved his song and all the songs written by the group. Leo also took jelly to share with his buddies during the meetings. On the way to the meetings, Leo would drive to Dalton to pick up his special friend Fred McDade. They had so much fun talking and laughing all the way there and back. Leo loved veterans and went to meetings at the American Legion Post 112 and the VFW. He served on many committees and was always looking for projects and ways to help his fellow veterans. He would do whatever it took to help veterans. He worked to get monuments established at the County Courthouse and many other causes that would honor veterans.

Leo passed away on January 25, 2019, two months shy of his and Peggy’s 62nd wedding anniversary. A few months later, in April, during Cohutta’s 50th-year celebration, a new street (LEO WAY) was named for Leo. It was very fitting as this was the street next to the new Veteran Memorial Leo had worked to help make a reality. Most of Leo’s family was in attendance at the celebration and unveiling of the two street signs. Three of his grandsons - Josh, Nick, and Jake Gillaspie – were on hand to unveil the street signs bearing his name. Fond memories of Leo, his laughter, his bear hugs, and generous spirit linger still.

Healing through music and songwriting...

Freedom Sings USA provides songwriting and music-arts therapy programs for Veterans and Military families. Based in Nashville and Chattanooga (TN), we are now providing weekly classes, monthly workshops and touring events nationwide (live and online). Whether you're a veteran searching for a place to connect with peers, a songwriter looking to share your talents, or an organization interested in supporting our Veteran-focused mission, we invite you to get involved today. Music is Good Medicine.™