John Whiteman helped build heavy-equipment seller Empire Southwest into one of the largest private companies in Arizona, employing roughly 1,900 people statewide. But friends and colleagues say they mainly remember him as a force for philanthropy, especially that focused on making life better for young children.
Whiteman, who died May 30 at age 79, was a force for early childhood education, improved health care for minors and protections against human trafficking.
“He had a genuine desire to help other people,” said son Jeffrey Whiteman, who succeeded his father as CEO of Empire Southwest, the Caterpillar equipment dealer for Arizona and southeast California. “That’s what he was all about — helping people and making things better.”
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Focus on children
Whiteman’s passions led