Dancin' Dave Whatley, the man who shuffled into the hearts of thousands of Wiregrass residents over decades, died Monday evening.
He was 88.
Dancin' Dave became famous throughout Dothan and surrounding communities because he walked everywhere he went. He dressed in all white and would stop and dance for a few dollars when he met someone.
"We are most sad, yet very grateful for our time with him and his time with us. More joys than we can count. We will miss him," said Debbie Yurevich, who spent time with Dave recently along with Lori Barefield. They created a Dancin' Dave Facebook page that garnered more than 10,000 likes and helped Dave be honored with his own signature fiberglass peanut just off the square in Headland.
Scores of Wiregrass residents reacted to the passing of Dancin Dave Whatley on social media …
Yurevich and Barefield documented some of Dancin' Dave's last days, posting videos and anecdotes to the Facebook page.
Dave Whatley was born near Headland in 1927. The story goes that his parents bought him a radio when he was young and he spent hours moving his feet to the rhythm of the music. As a teen, Dave attended a dance in Florida with friends and got introduced to a new kind of dancing. Although it was unfamiliar to him, Dave made his way onto the floor and let his feet go. Soon, everyone gave way and he had the dance floor by himself.
He lost his father at 12, and Dave spent most of his life doing odd jobs. He once worked for a Headland businessman who paid him in white shirts and ties. He rarely wore anything else the rest of his life. Later, sailors coming home would give Dave their clothes.
“He tried a couple of times to wear other colors,” Yurevich said recently. “He said nobody would recognize him, so he went back to white.”
Primarily, Dave got by with his feet, walking thousands of miles over the years and stopping for countless dances.
Dave recently took ill and was under Hospice care for the past several weeks.
Arrangements are pending and will be handled by Holman-Headland Mortuary.