Liberty faculty member connects with 92-year-old friend of Jerry Falwell, Sr.

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What started as a conversation over the phone about Jerry Falwell Sr. has turned into a friendship and fellowship that will last a lifetime.

When School of Engineering Lab Manager Marc Jantomaso began teaching at Liberty University seven years ago, he was intrigued by Falwell’s autobiography, “Strength for the Journey: An Autobiography.

“I’ve been very curious about the founding and building of Liberty University from the beginning,” Jantomaso said.

Last summer, Jantomaso began remembering one specific chapter in Falwell’s famous autobiography.

The chapter describes a man from Missouri and his 25-year-old daughter, Ann Whittemore, who had both befriended Falwell in the mid-1950s. The two bought a 700-acre ranch in Long Island, Virginia, during the same time Falwell started Thomas Road Baptist Church.

Marc Jantomaso

For the first decade of Falwell’s ministry he traveled 30 miles each way, two to three times per week to the Whittemore farm. While at the farm with the Whittemores, he would pray and learn how to develop a closer relationship with God. The Whittemore’s were great leaders in Falwell’s life, but more than anything, they became some of his closest and dearest friends, as described in his autobiography.

“For some reason, I had this thought in my mind: I wonder if this woman (Ann Whittemore) is still around today,” Jantomaso said.

After doing some brief research, Jantomaso found a retirement home address for Ann Whittemore (now Ann Malir) in Washington state and decided to give the listed phone number a call.

To his surprise, he was able to get in touch with Malir, and their first conversation ended up lasting over an hour. The two now talk weekly, and Jantomaso is grateful to be hearing some of the same wisdom and advice that was once given to Falwell.

“She is a brilliant and amazing woman of God who loves the Lord,” Jantomaso said. “We are now almost always talking in a three-way conversation between us and Jesus.”

Today, Malir is 92 years old and remembers her relationship with Jerry Falwell Sr. with great appreciation.

The Whittemore family

After marrying, she and her husband moved to California in the early 1960s. Malir was not fully aware of the success of Liberty until she returned to Virginia to take care of her father about 20 years later.

“The Lord may take us on different paths, but the one in the Spirit is so precious and so real,” Malir said. “I appreciate the Lord keeping us in that always.”

While Falwell’s autobiography describes many valuable lessons and experiences, more than anything, it proves that letting God lead every step is the best thing to do.

“What we see today (Liberty University) is the result of one man listening to God and choosing to follow His instructions,” Jantomaso said. “Unless you hear the voice of God, you don’t really have the courage to keep going when everything else is going down around you.” 

Madilyn Kazmucha is a Feature writer.

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