Holleman: St. Louis County widower aims to provide hope with Channel swimming | Joe’s St. Louis

It is relatively common to perform physical feats to raise awareness and money for a cause. At any time, someone walks, runs or rides to honor the memory of a loved one.

But few make the choice of Jonathan Whiting: to swim across the English Channel.

Whiting, 60, plans to swim across the channel in July to shed light on cholangiocarcinoma, usually called bile duct cancer. The disease claimed the life of his wife, Lori B. Whiting, in 2016.






Jonathan Whiting dons his ‘Channel Swimming Association’ swimming cap before a training session at the Clayton Center on Tuesday February 22, 2022. Whiting will swim the English Channel in July to raise funds and awareness for the rare form of cancer, cholangiocarcinoma , who killed his wife. Photo by Colter Peterson, [email protected]


Colter Peterson


To cover the 21 mile distance, which due to drift will end around 26-28 miles, a swimmer must swim in 60 degree salt water for 14-18 hours, without a wetsuit and while wary of hypothermia, seasickness, jellyfish stings and boat wakes.

Consider this: more than three times as many people (6,041) climbed Everest and then swam across the English Channel (1,881).

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“I’m not saying it won’t hit me,” Whiting said of the difficulty. “But it hasn’t hit me yet.”

Whiting was born in New Hampshire and moved here when he was in second grade. After graduating in 1980 from Parkway West, he went to Southwest Missouri State University (now Missouri State).

Before finishing there, Whiting packed up his skills and skills in playing the vibraphone and headed east to study music at Berklee College of Music in Boston.

Returning home after a year, he played music and earned his accounting degree in 1989 from the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Although his day job was accounting, the music remained. Over the years, Whiting has played in many venues and worked with local jazz stalwarts like bassist Darrell Mixon and drummer Gary Sykes.







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A starfish tattoo is seen on Jonathan Whiting’s calf as he swims laps in the pool during a practice session at the Clayton Center on Tuesday February 22, 2022. Whiting got the matching tattoo with his wife, Lori B. Whiting, before his death. from cancer in 2016. He will swim across the English Channel in July to raise funds and awareness for cholangiocarcinoma, the form of cancer that killed his wife. Photo by Colter Peterson, [email protected]


Colter Peterson


The jamming paid off: he met his wife while playing in August 1988 at Patrick’s in Westport.

Lori Boisseau came with a group of friends that included a woman Whiting knew. Whiting was quickly smitten after being introduced, but decided to play it cool.

“I didn’t want to move that night, right after I finished playing at 1am,” he said. “So I waited until the next day and we went out to dinner the following evening.”

The couple married in 1991. They had two children, now in their twenties. His daughter, Emma, ​​lives in Denver; her son, Cole, is in town – with Whiting’s first granddaughter, Eve, who was born in late November.







The Jonathan Whiting Family

The Jonathan Whiting family (Photo courtesy of 21 Miles of Hope)


‘Why not me?’

For the first 20 years of their marriage, life went down the default path of work, school, activities, vacations – until December 2012, when his wife felt a lump in her stomach. .

That was it – no pain, sickness or weight loss. Just a piece.

To be sure, she went to see her doctor. Both thought he would be told something like the need to have his gallbladder removed.

“The doctor came in, looked at us and said, ‘It’s cholangiocarcinoma. The survival rate is 15% will do it five years, if they have surgery,'” Whiting recalled.

Whiting said almost everyone was devastated by the news, but his wife (who was only 49 at the time) never flinched.

“She never took the ‘why me’ approach,” he said. “If that happened, she’d be like, ‘Why not me? “”

After surgery and follow-up treatment, her condition improved. But as Whiting noted, “Cancer is intelligent and can change. Hers has changed, and she has come back.

Even when his time was short, Whiting and their children had his strength for support.

“There was nothing she wouldn’t do for her children and me; it was his passion,” he said. “She even taught us how we should all move on.”

Even with that coaching, Whiting admitted he was adrift after his death in October 2016.

“I just couldn’t find passion in anything; not in work, not in music,” he said. “I was just following the moves.”

Embrace the fears

The routine persisted until the early days of COVID-19 in 2020. But when gyms began to reopen, Whiting found himself in the pool.







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Jonathan Whiting swims laps in the pool during a training session at the Clayton Center on Tuesday February 22, 2022. Whiting will swim the English Channel in July to raise funds and awareness for the rare form of cancer, cholangiocarcinoma, which killed his wife. Photo by Colter Peterson, [email protected]


Colter Peterson


Water has always been a love for Whiting. He had already done a number of long-distance swims, including a 5-mile swim on his 50th birthday. He has also run marathons and half-marathons and participated in numerous triathlons, including an Ironman distance.

Then in the summer of 2020, while sitting in his Kirkwood-area home, “the idea hit me. This is what I have to do,” he said of the challenge.

Whiting quickly got in line to work out the process for swimming in the channel.

The first priority was to secure a pilot, the boat that accompanies a swimmer. The first available slot he could find was the week of July 17, 2022.

Then he contacted a trainer, Carol Breitera retired marathon swimmer from Northern California who now trains people to swim in the canals.

For about 16 months now, Whiting has been following Breiter’s workout schedule and hitting the Clayton Center pool at least five, and often six days a week.







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Jonathan Whiting swims laps in the pool during a training session at the Clayton Center on Tuesday February 22, 2022. Whiting will swim the English Channel in July to raise funds and awareness for the rare form of cancer, cholangiocarcinoma, which killed his wife. Photo by Colter Peterson, [email protected]


Colter Peterson


Of course, he has read volumes of material on the task at hand and is well aware of all the aforementioned obstacles and the one variable that adamantly refuses to be controlled.

“You never know what Mother Nature has in store for you,” he said.

Before July, he must complete two difficult swims: a 10-mile swim in April in Hawaii, then a 12-mile swim in June at Lake Tahoe.

“Tahoe swimming is getting me certified for the canal because you have to show that you can swim in water that’s 60 degrees or less,” he explained.

Finally, he will travel to Dover, England in early July to spend two weeks acclimatizing to the water and currents of the channel.

Whiting understands he might not reach the French coast.

“My kids both told me, ‘You know, it’s okay if you don’t finish,’ he said. “And both told me they couldn’t allow myself to get lost,” he added, his voice muffled by the severity of his emotion.

“And I’m also aware that I can’t afford not to be there for them.”

Whiting hopes her swimming will educate people about the disease and in turn bring hope to those battling the disease.

A website, 21milesofhope.orgwas created to provide more detail.

“I’m excited about it. As soon as I thought about it, my mind hasn’t changed since,” he said. “Any fears I have, I embrace them.”