Lincoln resident dies in hunting accident

By: Brandon Darnell, News Messenger Reporter
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Sam Whittaker will best be remembered by his love for Lincoln’s youth and his passion for the outdoors and helping others, said his wife, Debbie. Whittaker died Sunday in a tragic hunting accident east of Willows, Calif., according to family members. Whittaker, 44, lived in Lincoln and worked as a drywall taper. “Sam was awesome,” Debbie said. “He always had something good to say about everyone. He loved kids, people, his work, coaching youth sports and his family.” Lt. Rich Warren of the Glenn County Sheriff’s Department said Whittaker and his brother, Frank Whittaker of Orangevale, were hunting ducks early Sunday morning. Walking through a particularly muddy section of wetlands, Frank slipped and accidentally fired his shotgun, striking Whittaker in the upper back. Frank ran for help, finding two registered nurses in a nearby field, Warren said, but by the time they made it back to Whittaker, he had passed away. “Sam would always say that you don’t ask God why something happened,” Debbie said, “you ask Him what you can learn from this. We don’t know why this happened, but Sam wouldn’t want us to sit around and go crazy.” Warren said that these types of accidents unfortunately happen, adding, “In any type of hunting, you’ve got to be very careful and make sure all precautions are there. Keep the safety on, and remember that you treat every gun as if it were loaded.” The Whittakers never had any children of their own, Debbie said, but Sam raised the children she brought to their marriage, Billy and Steven Mongold, for 22 years as if they were his own. The couple was in the middle of adopting two of their grandchildren, and Debbie was relieved to learn that she will still be able to “continue on with Sam’s dream.” As Debbie’s grew, Whittaker was always involved with them, coaching football and baseball. In the 1990s, he coached the Lincoln Colts pop warner team for 11 years, taking them to the championship one year, Debbie said. He coached little league baseball for another three years. “Sam loved the outdoors,” Debbie said. “He died doing what he loved doing. If you could see the home he built, you’d see the love he had for his family. He’ll be greatly, greatly, greatly missed and loved forever by everyone.” In addition to his wife and children, Whittaker is survived by his mother, Elnora Mae, brother Frank, sisters Norma Jean Whittaker and Wanka Franks, as well as grandchildren Steven, Vanessa, Justin, Marcus and Noah Mongold. The service and celebration of Sam’s life will be held at 11 a.m. Dec. 9 at the Heritage Church Theater in Lincoln. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Sam Whittaker Memorial Fund at the U.S. Bank at 525 McBean Park Drive in Lincoln.