Monday, February 8, 2010

In Loving Memory of Paul Herlinger May 1, 1929 - February 2, 2010

Dear Friends,

Today I bring to you the sad news of the death of a man who was a dear friend to all of us. I received news this afternoon that Paul Herlinger, the voice of Whit from 1996-2008 passed away last week. He will be dearly missed by all. As I sit here writing this, I am not even sure what or how I feel. I know I am terribly sad, but I'm also glad that he is no longer ill or in pain. I feel very disjointed. On one hand, I never met him. On the other, I feel like one of my closest friends just died.

I had to stop in the middle of writing this post to scour my room for what is now one of my most treasured possessions - a letter from Paul. I wrote to him two years ago to express my gratitude for all he has done with Odyssey and let him know just how much he influenced my life for the good and for God. To my amazement and joy, he wrote back. It was a sweet yet simple letter typed on what appears to be a typewriter with a handwritten signature at the end. But now this letter means more to me than almost anything else I own. It came from the heart and will forever remind me of my childhood hero.

I know that Paul and Whit were not the same person. I know that Whit is not dead, nor is he real. However, for some reason that I cannot understand, I feel an inexplicable sense of loss and sadness. Whit will never be the same. I will never be able to hear a Paul episode again without experiencing some sense of loss. I'm sure it will fade with time, as it did with Hal Smith, but right now, I'm not sure how. The work that this man did, the character he brought to life, has changed my life so much and strengthened my faith in more ways than I can count.

I remember my excitement while writing my letter to him and getting his address. I remember my joy at finding out I actually got a response! I remember how my hands shook and how I could barely contain myself when I opened and read the letter! I remember seeing him on the video screen at the live show in Colorado. I remember hearing that he was very ill and would no longer be with AIO after that show.

And yet, in all these memories, I never met him in person. My loss, our loss as fans, is nothing compared to those who knew and loved him. So today, I ask you to pray for those at Focus, from AIO, and especially his family and friends who are missing this wonderful man. Pray for their comfort and salvation. Pray for God's love and compassion to be showered on them. Pray for their healing.

Here's to you Paul.

And remember: the best is yet to come.



  1. I am very sad but now I am glad that he quit so they could find a replacement. I suppose he knew his time as Whit had ended.

  2. Thank you for that Sarah.

    I remember feeling very sad and almost annoyed when Paul Herlinger decided he could no longer continue on with the role of Whit. I didn't think it was necessary for him to stop and was generally not happy. Most of my frustration was because I didn't start listening to the show until Paul was working on it. I knew him as Mr. Whitaker. And although I love the Hal Smith episodes as well, Paul's voice has a special place in my heart.

    Of course I now see that it was all for the best. That his stepping down provided and gentle transition into another voice of Mr. Whitaker. I know none of this easy, but I think God worked through Paul in allowing him to stop when he did. As we welcome Andre to the Odyssey family, I know that he can provide the same love, warmth and character to Mr. Whitaker as Hal and Paul both did. I cannot express my gratitude for Mr. Whitaker. My only regret is that I can never thank Hal or Paul for how God has worked through them for me.

    I will be praying for everyone at Focus on the Family, especially the people who knew and loved Paul best.

    And yes, the best is yet to come.

  3. hopefully we'll see him in heaven someday!

  4. I will miss him so much.

  5. I am in tears. . . Paul, you reached out to me by playing dear Mr. Whittaker. You & your family are in my heart's prayers. Lord, thank you for everything that Paul did, bless him & thank you for letting him be such a wonderful influence on all of us. I love you & will miss you more than you can imagine, Paul!!!

  6. Chris and Sarah, please, please, please, do a podcast review of season 51. Please?

  7. Very sad. A great man who lead a great life. touched a lot of people. God bless.

  8. Ditto what Josiah said.

  9. AIO has been a wonderful thread through my children's lives. My oldest girl went to Covenant College (Presbyterian Church in America) and found there that many of the girls on her floor had grown up on AIO. Many of them had the common experience of listening on CD and skipping over Chris. The characters have become part of our lives. I got up this morning to find my 15 year old son listening to the radio to get the latest episode. My 15 and 18 year olds listen to them daily. I love them too, especially Eugene and Connie and the Rathbones. My son isn't happy about the new Whit. I just told him change is hard, with time we will get used to this new embodiment of Whit. - Jody

  10. I listened as a child with my family to Adventures in Odyssey dramas when they were called Odyssey USA, a weekly.

    We started with Hal Smith then on to Paul Herlinger. I liked them both the same over time. I wondered why in a recent drama I heard a new voice as Mr. Whittaker and that his web drawing had changed. Today I did a web search to find out what had happened and that is how I learned of Mr. Herlinger’s passing.

    The new gentleman will take some getting use to. Certainly it will be easier now that I know that one of my favorites did not just opt out.

    We feel the double loss of losing that well loved-familiar voice and that of knowing he is gone altogether. I wished I could have learned by radio that he was ill that and he had passed. But I can too respect privacy.

    I cannot help thinking how much his character and those of others others have grown to be a part of our family; their struggles have been ours, their life lessons also ours.

    Bless Mr. Herlinger's contributions and all the continued God-centered work of the staff at Adventures in Odyssey.