Rolia Whitinger

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Rolia Whitinger
Rolia Whitinger 1935.jpg
Whitinger in 1935
Born (1916-06-26)June 26, 1916
Genoa, Ottawa County, Ohio
Died October 2, 2001(2001-10-02) (aged 85)
Harlingen, Cameron County, Texas
Allegiance United States United States
Service/branch Emblem of the United States Department of the Army.svg United States Army
Years of service 1944–1946
Rank Private First Class (USA)
Unit 23rd Infantry Regiment (United States)
2nd Infantry Division (USA)
Battles/wars World War II

Rolia Harvey Whitinger (/ˈrɔːli ˈhtɪŋər/ raw-lee;[1] June 26, 1916 – October 2, 2001) was a veteran of World War II during his 10 months and 6 days in action in the European Theater.

He received the Bronze Star, the fourth-highest combat award of the U.S. Armed Forces. He died October 2, 2001 and was interred 7 years later, on August 15, 2008 in Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery, San Antonio, Texas.[2] Whitinger was one of 78 victims of a crime that was investigated by the FBI and discovered to have taken place on the campus of UTMB in Galveston, Texas.


Early life[edit]

Whitinger was born on June 26, 1916 in Genoa, Ottawa County, Ohio to Rolia Alfred and Nellie Blanche Whitinger (née Myers) who were of German and Dutch descent. Whitinger's ancestor, Franz Weidinger, came to the American colonies in 1754. It is speculated through family tradition, that Franz Weidinger is a distant cousin to Anton Weidinger.[3] The Weidinger name was Anglicized to "Whitinger" upon arrival to the port of Philadelphia where Franz Weidinger took an oath of allegiance to King George II of Great Britain before the mayor of Philadelphia, Charles Willing.[4][5] Family tradition states that the name "Rolia" was originally Rollie (a variation of the name Raleigh) but was changed in public record due to a quill pen. Family tradition also has it that Rolia Alfred Whitinger, was the namesake of Rolla, Missouri. Probate court records from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on Abraham Harvey Myers (the grandfather of Rolia Harvey Whitinger), listed Rolia Harvey Whitinger as "Rolla Harvey Whitinger". Relatives of Whitinger mentioned in the probate case of Abraham Harvey Myers were notified by publication in the Rolla, Missouri area. Whitinger grew up on a farm outside of Genoa, Ohio. His father, Rolia Alfred Whitinger was the son of Isaac Whitinger and Huldah Van Dyke. His mother, Nellie Blanche Myers, died in April 1920. Her parents were Abram Harvey Myers and Ellen Jane Wiles. Whitinger was the second of three children. His sisters were, Virginia June and Mary Ellen Whitinger. He graduated from Clay-Genoa High School on May 23, 1935.

Military service[edit]

Rolia Harvey Whitinger worked as a farm-hand on his father’s farm which consisted of 150 acres (0.61 km2), planting, cultivating and harvesting tomatoes, soy beans, corn, oats, and sugar beets using a team of horses until he was inducted into the U.S. Army on March 31, 1944, at Camp Atterbury, Indiana. He was 27 years old.[6]Whitinger was an Automatic Rifleman (746) and performed duties with Company F., 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Division in the European Theatre of Operations. He loaded aimed and fired a Browning Automatic Rifle to provide power support to tactical units, in capturing and holding enemy positions. Whitinger was part of the 2nd Infantry Division which came ashore on Omaha Beach on D Day +1 June 7, 1944. He saw heavy combat across France and helped hold the line at St. Vith during the Battle of the Bulge. For his gallantry in World War II he was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation. According to Whitinger's Separation Qualification Record, he was in Infantry Basic Training (521) as a Private from March 31, 1944 to May 1944 After training in Wales from May 1944 to June 1944, the 2nd Infantry Division crossed the channel to land on Omaha Beach on D Day plus 1, on 7 June 1944, near St. Laurent-sur-Mer. Whitinger helped the Division liberate Trévières, on June 10 and proceeded to secure St. Lô and then moved west to Brest, which finally surrendered on September 18, 1944 after 39 days of fierce fighting.

Whitinger, as part of the 2nd Division in September 1944, moved to defensive positions at St. Vith, Belgium. From positions around St. Vith, the Second was ordered, on 11 December 1944, to attack and seize the Roer River dams. He recalled in his notes of spending quite some time in Siegfried pillboxes and that the smoke from the fires to stay warm was atrocious. He recalled that after the bombing of St. Vith, that in what was left of the cathedral there, someone had placed a small cross on the altar. The German Ardennes offensive forced the division to withdraw to defensive positions near Elsenborn Ridge, where the German drive was halted. In February 1945 the Division recaptured lost ground, seized Gemund. Reaching the Rhine 9 March, the 2d advanced south to guard the Remagen Bridge - also known as the Ludendorff Bridge, 12–20 March. He recalled a different take on the fall of the Remagen Bridge. "I witnessed an episode of two P-38 fighters (Lockheed P-38 Lightning) and a stuka dive bomber. The fighters were after the Remagen Bridge and rammed together. It sounded like a bunch of tin cans rattling. The boys bailed out of fighters. The stuka succeeded at bombing the bridge taking it out. Meanwhile the wreckage of the planes was coming towards me and the wreckage suddenly stopped and came crashing straight down. When the wreckage hit the ground it blew up with a loud explosion."[6]

Camp Fannin Texas May 1944

Whitinger suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after his return from the war. He was reportedly plagued by insomnia, bouts of depression, and nightmares related to his numerous battles.

Medals and Citations[edit]

He was a recipient of the following Military Decorations and Citations:

Personal life[edit]

Whitinger was honorably discharged from the United States Army on April 13, 1946 and returned home to an elderly father and stepmother and to a farm that shrunk in size. For nearly 10 years he helped maintain what was left of farmstead until his father’s death, in October 1955. His stepmother, Lucille Whitinger (née Enright) died in 1956. He married Annabelle Bertalan in 1958. Whitinger and his wife had three children and he adopted his wife's child from her first marriage.

After a few years of living at the farmhouse in Genoa, Ohio and tired of fighting the frigid winters in Northwestern Ohio, Rolia would repeatedly remark to Annabelle, “I want to move to Texas.” Remembering during his temporary station and training at Camp Fannin, outside of Tyler, Texas in 1944 and his temporary station at Camp Swift, outside of Bastrop, Texas. Finally, one day in the winter of 1961 he finally had repeated it enough times, that Annabelle replied back “Okay, let’s do it.”[6]

They sold the farmhouse to a neighboring farmer and shipped their belongings to Mercedes, Texas, the home of the Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show, a town that he had visited previously with his nieces and with friends who were migrant farm workers who came from “The Valley” and always talked of “The Valley”.

After moving to Texas, Whitinger worked numerous odd jobs, including nightwatchman, and maintenance custodial work for the Harlingen Independent School District. He was attempting to gain employment with Sears for small motor repair (mostly lawnmower engines) when it was discovered in a required physical, that he had multiple hernias. After many unsuccessful surgeries, his practitioner declared him disabled – physically unable to work. He developed diabetes in his later years and was constantly attempting to control his blood sugar levels. This condition may have been from a result of the body not being able to fully recover from the multiple attempts to repair the hernias.

In 1998, he and Annabelle after having discussed the idea over a period of years, decided to jointly, donate their bodies to medical science and signed “contracts” that were provided in a waiting room at a local hospital in Harlingen, Texas.[6]


In August 2001, after attending a quinceañera for a child of a local family in San Benito, Texas, Rolia became ill. He was admitted to Valley Baptist Medical Center in Harlingen, Texas and remained in intensive care for 5 days. After which he was moved to a local nursing home where he died about 2 weeks later, on October 2, 2001.

His body was donated per his request to the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas through the Willed Body Program. The family requested his cremated remains be returned for proper interment. On June 13, 2002, staff at the Willed Body Program at UTMB in Galveston, issued a letter stating that the program was finished with Rolia Whitinger’s remains and that his cremated remains would be returned as promised under separate cover. However, Annabelle received a phone call on July 3, 2002 from staff at Human Resources stating that Rolia Whitinger’s remains were not going to be returned. It was explained that there was an incident and the FBI was called in to investigate. When Annabelle Whitinger asked about the letter, and what were they planning to send, beach sand was offered as an alternative.

As news articles indicated from The Galveston County Daily News and the Houston Chronicle and August 2003 Texas Monthly magazine,[7] the incident was that employee Allen Tyler of UTMB at the Willed Body Program, was being investigated by the FBI for allegedly selling human remains for his own profit.[8] In the investigative report,[9] Tyler was shown invoices that he had created to receive monies in "honorarium" for cadavers to be used in courses.

FBI investigation[edit]

In the FBI investigation, dated May 23, 2002, Special Agent Jim Walsh for Texas City Resident Agency (TCRA), requested in his synopsis "captioned matter to be opened and assigned to the writer." The details read as such: "On March 22, 2002 the Audit Department from UTMB initiated a full audit for the Willed Body Program pursuant to a request from Dr. Stanley Lemon- the Dean of UTMB School of Medicine concerning information received from the Riverside County, California District Attorney's Office that Allen Tyler had been questioned in a case there surrounding the selling of human body parts and related Riverside County newspaper articles concerning the selling of human body parts."[9] On April 26, 2002, "[Officials][10] for UTMB met with officers from UTMB Police Department concerning the initial findings from the audit. The auditors were concerned that it appeared that human body parts were being shipped illegally from the Willed Body Program to outside entities. The auditors provided the name of Agostino Perna and three businesses (IMET, Surgical Body Forms and Mobile Medical Training Unit (MMTU)) as possible sources for the delivery of the body parts. They further advised that Ron Roller of Galveston Morticians were possibly involved in that they were unable to determine how many bodies Roller's business had delivered to the Willed Body Program. The audit uncovered copies of invoices that appeared to be for different body parts that had been shipped to the above listed companies owned by Perna. The invoices listed Tyler as the party to be paid and provided his home address in Galveston, Texas as the pay to address. UTMB requested the assistance of the FBI in investigating the matter. The writer requests that this matter be opened and assigned."[9] On May 7, 2002, University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) Police Chief Charles Brown, and [officials][10] met with the writer at the TCRA in regard to this matter. The officers advised that Allen Tyler, supervisor the Willed Body Program at UTMB, was apparently selling human body parts from the Willed Body Program (WBP) for his own benefit."[9]

On May 8, 2002, the writer conducted an interview with Allen Tyler. He was interviewed at his residence by the writer (Jim Walsh) and in the presence of University of Texas Medical Branch Police Department. After being advised of the identities of the Agent and Officers, Tyler provided the following: He is currently employed at UTMB as the Supervisor for Anatomical Services within the Willed Body Program (WBP). He has worked at UTMB for approximately forty years with the most recent twenty five years in his current position. He worked for several years at UTMB in various positions to include Hospitality Shop, Labor Gang and Operating Room Orderly before taking a position as helper within the willed Body Program. He would clean the floors and all areas within the WBP and assist in embalming bodies. He was promoted to the curator of the WBP museum where he was in charge of maintaining the specimens within the museum. He worked within this position for several more years before being promoted to his current position.

The WBP receives human bodies via donation by an individual’s estate, family member or through a person’s will. The WBP has files on individuals who have prior to their death, willed their body to the program to be utilized for the advancement of science. The WBP is notified by a funeral home or mortuary service that they are in possession of a body to be donated to the program. Once they deliver the body to the WBP, they are paid for their services and the body is tagged for identification. The body receives a State of Texas Anatomical Board (SAB) identification number that is utilized to track the body while it is within the program. The SAB number is in the form of a metal tag that is attached to the body and the number is also written in permanent ink inside the ear of the body.

The SAB is an organizational body made up of representatives of the WBPs of different universities within the state of Texas. The SAB among other duties is the entity that approves the transfer of bodies and or parts from one WBP to universities other than their own. WBPs are authorized to use bodies donated within their own university as they deem appropriate, but need SAB approval to ship outside of their own university. SAB issues identification tags usually 50 to 100 tags at one time and as a WBP is running low a request is made for additional tags. He was unsure but believes that there are currently 7-9 universities within Texas that are operating a WBP. UTMB's WBP receives approximately 200-250 bodies per year that are all issued SAB identification numbers.

Once a body is received and tagged for identification, he fills out a multi-part form that contains the SAB number for the body and is utilized in order to track the location of the body and or parts. If a part of a body is shipped to another university a copy of the multi-part form is sent with the part in order to identify the location of the part.

He advised that when a body is received there are only two procedures that could take place. The body would either be embalmed or segmented and subsequently frozen. Most of the bodies received are embalmed, for preservation and then stored in a vat full of the chemical Phenol. The bodies are stored 25 units to a vat. The better bodies are always embalmed for use by the freshman medical students at the university. The only bodies that are segmented are the ones that have had some sort of trauma and would otherwise be unsuitable for the students. The parts that are usable are segmented and frozen for use by researchers at UTMB. The researchers prefer to use the frozen or otherwise known as "fresh" parts due to their more lifelike value for research. UTMB researchers are limited in that only those parts that are on hand at the WBP are the ones available for research. If a researcher needs additional parts then they must make a request to another university WBP through the SAB for the parts needed.

He is the individual who decides upon receipt, on whether or not a body is a suitable candidate for the WBP. Conditions such as obesity, gross mutilation, gross trauma or infectious diseases (HIV, AIDS, hepatitis, etc.) would be deemed unsuitable for the program and would either be rejected or cremated.

Once the decision to embalm or not is made and the body is tagged, the information on the individual body and its corresponding SAE number are entered into a computerized inventory data base system that is utilized to track the body and or its parts throughout the time it is utilized by the WBP. If a body is segmented, each individual part is identified with the same original SAB number and its disposition is entered into the data base. The individual parts are tracked throughout the period of time they are being utilized, in order to make the body whole for cremation when all research is concluded. If only one part was to be maintained, then the balance of. the body would be cremated and the information recorded within the inventory data base. This system also helps to track parts when a family wishes to have the cremains of their loved one returned upon completion of research. If a part is shipped off of UTMB campus to another facility then the part can be returned at the completion of research or cremated locally by the recipient. If the part is not returned, a document is placed in the file identifying the disposition of the part.

When a researcher is in need of a frozen part they will make a request in writing to the SAB outlining the type of research they are conducting and the specific need for a part. The researcher will send the letter to the SAB for approval and identify which WBP has the parts that they are in need of. When the SAB approves the request made by the researcher, a copy of the letter with the approval is sent to the WBP in order to fulfill the researcher’s request. The specific part(s) are packed for shipping and sent to the university address supplied by the researcher. Along with the part(s) is sent the SAB form to identify the part(s) in the WBP inventory and an invoice for payment to UTMB Finance Department. The WBP is only allowed to charge another university the standard cost for maintaining a specific part(s) on the enclosed invoice. Upon receipt of the package, the researcher is required to have their university forward payment to UTMB. Upon completion of research, the researcher is required to either cremate the part(s) locally or return them to UTMB. In either case, a form is required to be sent back to UTMB WBP identifying the disposition of the part(s). He advised that these were the procedures for the WBP and that there were never any deviations from these procedures. He further advised that the WBP could only ship part(s) to other universities via the request to the SAB. The WBP was not authorized to ship part(s) to any entity other than those affiliated with a university/teaching hospital.

The writer produced three documents labelled "Invoice" identifying a company Surgical Body Forms as the “Sold To” and “Ship To” entity on the documents. The documents contained shipping dates of 10/9/2001, 11/O6/2001 and 1/03/2002 with corresponding shipping addresses of Sparta, New Jersey 07871, for the first two invoices and Budd Lake, New Jersey, 07878, for the third invoice. The first invoice described “Honoraria for Torso Course LSU New Orleans 10/06/01 - 10/07/2001” with a quantity ordered of 2 and a quantity shipped of 2 with a unit price of $2,900.00 and total of $5,800.00. The invoice also contained charges for limousine service to and from airports as well as a meal for 7/20/2001. The total amount billed to Surgical Body Forms was $6,021.00. The invoice also instructed to make the check payable to: Allen Tyler, Texas 77551. The other two invoices were similar in charges for 3 units “Honoraria for Torso Course at EON Houston, TX 11/01/2001 - 11/03/2001” totalling $5,100.00 and charges for 8 units “Honoraria for Torso Course for Philadelphia 1/3/2002” totalling $4,800.00. All three invoices listed the payee as Allen Tyler at his home address of Texas 77551. Tyler had immediate recognition of the invoices and tried not to look at them, while stating that he did not have anything further to say. After several seconds of holding the invoices in question in front of him, he accepted the documents from the writer. He repeated that he did not have anything further to say regarding this matter.

The writer advised him that he now understood what those documents represented. The writer proceeded to state that the documents represented a quantity of human torsos that had been accepted into the WBP at UTMB by Tyler and shipped to Surgical Body Forms. They also represented that payment for captioned torsos was sent directly to Tyler at his residence. Tyler would enter the bodies into the inventory system at UTMB and then advise UTMB that the torsos were cremated and not kept on inventory due to trauma. Once the torsos were reported destroyed, then Tyler was able to sell them and receive the subsequent funds without UTMB knowing. The writer further advised Tyler that he could not justify the billing on the invoices as strictly honoraria for a course he worked on his off-time from UTMB, due to the billing on the Philadelphia invoice for 8 days when the course was only 1 day. The writer advised Tyler that the invoice actually reflected 8 torsos that were shipped for use within a seminar by Surgical Body Forms. Tyler began to cry and continually nodded his head in acknowledgment of the statements made by the writer. The writer asked Tyler if the description provided by the writer was an accurate account of what the actual billing was for on the invoices and Tyler nodded his head in acknowledgment of the question. The writer then advised Tyler that Surgical Body Forms and Perna did not apply for or receive SAB approval for the transfer of the captioned parts to them. Tyler continued to cry and nodded his head in acknowledgment of the statement. Tyler was asked on how many occasions did he provide parts to non-SAD approved parties for payment to his home address. He stated that he would perjure himself if he chose to answer the question. Tyler was requested to aid in this investigation regarding others. He advised that he was contacted shortly after he was suspended by UTMB and an audit initiated. He advised Perna that he was “as good as fired” and that the auditors were all over his office. He further advised that was a very smart person and would see right through him if he were to contact him and attempt to re-establish their business relationship. Tyler was advised that the writer could make it appear as if the WBP passed the audit and that he was re-instated without any problems. He stated that it would never work and that Perna was too smart to fall for anything regarding him. He also advised that he was afraid of what he would do to him and his family if it was uncovered that he was trying to re-establish business at the request of the government."[9]

"Tyler sometimes got paid to be on call. According to Perna's deposition in the civil suit against UTMB, "If [Tyler] could not attend the course, he was still paid a consulting fee because he was on standby for me to call with questions". But his freelance work would go beyond simple consulting: 1998 was also the year he started his fingernail and toenail venture. The idea was this: He'd peel the nails off the cadavers and then sell them, then route the checks to his home. There were potential problems. The corpses involved belonged to the UTMB willed-body program, and there are state laws against taking personal profit from the sale of parts. But who would be watching?"[7]

In January 2004, Allen Tyler died[11] and the investigation by the FBI was stopped. Although there was indication in news reports that Allen Tyler was not the only person of interest, nothing[citation needed] was ever mentioned publicly who would be or still is of interest in the investigation. On February 11, 2004, Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA) Al Balboni, in regard to this investigation: contacted the writer in had been advised that subject, Allen Tyler Jr., died on January 17, 2004, at his residence in Galveston, Texas, as a result of cancer he had contracted several years earlier. Based on this information, Balboni has decided that there is no further investigation that can be completed in order to bring a prosecutable case against other subjects in this investigation including Agostino Perna. He advised that he would author a letter to the writer declining prosecution in the matter. Balnboni requested that the writer contact UTMB Director of Legal Affairs, Crillon Payne in order to facilitate the destruction of evidence in this investigation and return of UTMB property."[9]


As time progressed, the Whitinger family and roughly 77 other families sued the University of Texas Medical Branch, The Anatomical Board of the State of Texas and medical research companies as well as Allen Tyler [12] and his supervisor, Andrew Payer. A District Court in Galveston permitted other families to sue the University. The University immediately appealed that case and the Appellate Court Judge Scott Brister, overruled the lower court decision based on sovereign immunity. Judge Brister spoke to the press on May 29, 2003 prior to the ruling being made (a violation of Judicial conduct), stating, "We can cite Dred Scott but that’s not going to be popular”. “The defense is tough, we are the state. We can promise one thing and do something else.”[13] Thus making all the other suits follow precedent. Texas Governor Rick Perry appointed Scott Brister from the Appellate Court in Houston to the Texas Supreme Court in November 2003, thus ensuring that the other families in the lawsuit could not appeal the Texas Supreme Court. Pleas from The Whitinger family, to Texas Governor Rick Perry to lift sovereign immunity were to no avail. Nor would he meet with family members despite their requests. The Whitinger family through their attorney started lobbying for the lifting of sovereign immunity (the only alternative remaining). In April 2005, the Texas Senate passed such a measure and it was en route for the House, however it was stopped just before it was to be considered for the House, thus allowing the bill to die. Efforts to have the immunity lifted in 2007 once again by the Whitinger family led to a meeting of University officials, Dr. Steven Lieberman and John Stobo with the Whitinger family on January 25, 2007 at State Representative Edmund Kuempel’s office in the State Capitol building in Austin, Texas in which they revealed that after 5 years, that the University knowingly had possession of Rolia Whitinger’s head, shoulders and knees. The whereabouts of the rest of his remains have not been revealed.

Initial efforts to have the body released to the family failed due to the school’s insistence by citing that it was state law that these remains must be cremated. The family insisted that according to state law that the remains be left as they are, for the remains should not be cremated as the statute read that the body can only be cremated if the body is intact, specifying that the statute stated that the body would have to be “intact” (or at least accounted for). After waiting 6 months, July 2007, for the DNA testing to take place, DNA testing was completed by a state agency that stated that the remains were indeed of Rolia Whitinger. The Whitinger family waited until August 2008 for the University to release the remains. On August 15, 2008 a funeral with full military honors took place at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio, Texas. It was attended by members of the immediate family and news media from local San Antonio newspapers and television. Because of this incident, members of the state legislature amended the Rules and Regulations governing the State Anatomical Board in House Bill 2007 [14] in September 2009 and Annabelle Whitinger has now reconsidered body donation.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Wells, John C. (2009). "Ralegh, Raleigh". Longman Pronunciation Dictionary. London: Pearson Longman. ISBN 978-1-4058-8118-0.
  2. ^ Rolia Harvey Whitinger at Find a Grave
  3. ^ "Anton Weidinger". Retrieved 2012-01-21. 
  4. ^ "Mayors of the City of Philadelphia 1691-2000 Colonial Mayors 1691-1776". Retrieved 2012-01-21. 
  5. ^ Genealogical records of Judy Sheridan, John Whitinger
  6. ^ a b c Whitinger archival papers.
  7. ^ a b "Little Shop of Horrors", by Katy Vine, for Texas Monthly, Volume 31, Issue 8, August 2003.
  8. ^ Allen Tyler story
  9. ^ a b c d e f FBI File number 209C-HO-59994 “Allen Tyler, Jr. (deceased), University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas" Issued October 2004
  10. ^ a b Redacted information from the FBI Report: FBI File number 209C-HO-59994 “Allen Tyler, Jr. (deceased), University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas" Issued October 2004
  11. ^ AP Wire (January 25, 2004 (updated November 22, 2010)), UTMB body mishandling case suspect dies of cancer, archived from the original on 19 May 2012  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  12. ^ (PDF) Retrieved May 14, 2011.  Missing or empty |title= (help)[dead link]
  13. ^ "Willed Body Lawsuits Mulled" by Carter Thompson; Galveston County Daily News; Published May 29, 2003.
  14. ^

15. Honorable Discharge papers from the U.S. Army of Rolia H. Whitinger April 13, 1946.

Further reading[edit]

  • Body Brokers by Annie Cheney; Copyright 2006; Broadway Books a division of Random House Inc. ISBN 0-7679-1733-2

External links[edit]