If William Aaron Whitaker — who preferred Aaron — wasn’t hanging out with friends, visiting his girlfriend or going to class, he was probably working on his powerlifting techniques or getting a quick bite at Chick-fil-A.
The quick-witted, charming University of Georgia student is remembered by family and loved ones after a fatal car accident on Jan. 17.
A 20-year-old student who “loved his Dawgs,” Whitaker was majoring in exercise science and athletic training. He worked at the Ramsey Student Center since last summer, where he grew close to the staff. His unexpected death has been a shocking loss to those who loved him.
“I just want people to know how kind he was. He would give the shirt off of his back,” said Lauren Whitaker Kuykendall, Whitaker’s older sister.
Whitaker was traveling on the westbound lanes of I-20 around 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 17, when his car hit incoming debris from a crash that occurred in the eastbound lanes. Three other people were injured. The driver of the tractor-trailer that caused the crash was arrested and charged of improper lane change, following to closely and second-degree homicide.
Whitaker’s funeral was held on Jan. 21 at Shady Grove Baptist Church, his family’s church in his hometown of Carrollton. He was laid to rest in the church’s cemetery.
“We are doing as best as we can. We have peace in knowing that he is with the Lord,” Kuykendall said.
The UGA College of Education recognized Whitaker’s death as a “great loss” in a press release written by Jill Manners, a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology. According to Janet Buckworth, department head, the family will be receiving an official letter of condolence from the College of Education.
“He was smart, kind, handsome and had the best humor. He could make anyone laugh.”
-- Jordan Parrish, Whitaker's girlfriend
Even though he was the baby brother, Kuykendall said Whitaker was her “rock” until his last day. They were inseparable as children and grew up together with a similar closeness. Kuykendall said she will miss his laugh the most.
Whether it was his jokes or crazy dance moves, his sense of humor and friendly personality went beyond his family.
“He was the best guy I had ever met,” said Jordan Parrish, Whitaker’s girlfriend of just over a year. “He was smart, kind, handsome and had the best humor. He could make anyone laugh.”
Parrish and Whitaker met at the University of West Georgia — where he attended freshman and half of sophomore year — when she needed a date to a Braves game. They hit it off instantly and started dating two months later, carrying on their relationship through his transfer to UGA.
“He was the sweetest date and snuck away to get me popcorn during the game,” Parrish said. “We just got along so well. We were different but yet just alike.”
Remembered with a smile
Whitaker was a master sportsman; he played baseball in his teenage years and beat people at trivia and board games.
“I’ll always remember playing soccer with him when we would hang out,” said long-time friend Chandler Hetrick. “Even though he was an awesome baseball player, he always said he was a soccer player at heart.”
Hetrick met Whitaker in middle school where they shared many classes. The two remained close after Hetrick moved out of state.
“Aaron never backed down from a challenge, and I loved that about him,” Hetrick said. “He’s the best person I’ve ever known.”
Academically, Whitaker was “brilliant,” said teaching assistant in the department of kinesiology, Rachel Le. Le got to know Whitaker in a lab environment, learning about his passion for athletic training.
“You could tell that he put forth outside effort to perfect his craft and his skill, that was one thing that stood out to me the most,” Le said. “He had great potential as a professional, definitely a student that’s hard to come by.”
In the future, Parrish said Whitaker wanted to go to graduate school for athletic training at a Division 1 college or university, categorized as having the largest athletic budgets and most athletic scholarships.
Although extremely family oriented, Whitaker hoped to travel around the world, specifically to England to watch the Liverpool Football Club play in a soccer match.
Whitaker was “shy until you got to know him,” — said his sister — competitive and a bit of a jokester.
“He was truly loved by all his friends from everywhere he has been, his hometown, UWG and UGA,” Parrish said. “He was a godly man who was very positive and just enjoyed life itself. He would want everyone to remember the good times and not dwell on the sadness.”