Retired Juneau retailer Stuart Whitehead dies

Stuart Whitehead, Juneau’s Most Valuable Player, 1958. Courtesy Virginia Breeze.

Stuart Whitehead with sisters ( left to right) Page Merrill, Virginia Breeze, Anne Greene at the Juneau-Douglas Picnic, Seattle, 2001. Courtesy Virginia Breeze.

Juneau resident and retailer Stuart Mark Whitehead has died at the age of 72, from cancer.

Whitehead was born and raised in Juneau, the only boy among five children born to Southeast Alaska pioneers Dr. William Whitehead and Dorothy Johnson Whitehead.

He graduated from Juneau-Douglas High School in 1958 – where he was well-known for his basketball prowess. In 1963, he completed a degree in business administration from the University of North Dakota.

After college he served in the U. S. Navy during the Vietnam War, returning to Juneau in 1965.

He was a partner in the downtown and valley Super Rexall stores and owned Juneau’s first dedicated Hallmark shop. Whitehead retired a few years ago and was living on Whidbey Island, Washington when he died.

His son, Will, is a pharmacist and credits all those years hanging around Juneau Rexall stores as a reason.

“I kind of grew up in the pharmacy. In fact after we just closed the old pharmacy down (in the Foodland Shopping Center), I had my height chart in there from the early ’70s,” Will Whitehead said.

Whitehead said his father had the traits of being a good retailer in a small town like Juneau.

“He really loved his interaction with all the customers, and Juneau was a lot smaller. He was a real people person,” he said.

Lifelong friend Andy Pekovich was also a basketball player and 1958 Juneau High School graduate. Pekovich calls Whitehead a gentle, but mischievous soul, who liked a good joke and was always upbeat.

“I never saw him really get mad at anybody, you know as a teammate never spoke harshly about another teammate or anybody on another team. And in fact in 1957 he got the sportsmanship award in the All-Alaska tournament, not only because he was a good sport. It was usually given in those days to the best player on the losing team and we just barely lost the state championship in the third game of the tournament and Stuart was by far our best player,” Pekovich said.

No services are planned for Whitehead. His family suggests friends honor his memory by setting aside a day to spend with their children.