Remembering Mary Kay Whitmore, 1944-2023

‘Colby basketball had no greater friend than Mary Kay Whitmore,’ a champion in all walks of life

Mary Kay Whitmore, seen here in 2017, was an integral part of the Colby basketball family for 40 years. She passed away July 21, 2023. (Photo by Michelle Stapleton)
By Laura Meader
August 3, 2023

The College is remembering Mary Kay Whitmore, former first lady of Colby men’s basketball. For 40 years, her support of and love for the program touched thousands of student athletes and alumni. For more than 50 years, she was married to legendary Colby head men’s basketball coach Richard “Dick” Whitmore, who retired in 2011. Mary Kay Whitmore died July 21, 2023, in Old Orchard Beach, Maine. She was 78. 

Six days later, during the awards ceremony at the conclusion of the Pine Tree 2 Basketball Camps, held at Colby, campers and coaches paused for a moment of silence honoring Whitmore, who worked at the clinic for 25 years. 

Mary Kay Whitmore was always there at the end of camp, handing out checks to the coaches. “Her smile and the way she connected with everyone was just a beautiful thing,” reflected current Camp Director Damien Strahorn ’02, the inaugural Richard L. Whitmore Jr. Head Coach for Colby Men’s Basketball.

“As Coach Whitmore said to me, ‘Mary Kay was just a champion, a champion in all walks and facets of life,’” Strahorn recounted. Even as a student, Strahorn saw the beauty of her relationship with Dick Whitmore during one of the many team dinners she hosted in their home. “They complemented each other, and you could see how strong their relationship was in so many ways.”

When Dick Whitmore won his 600th game in 2009, he told Colby Magazine that his wife was the “rock of the family and my inspiration.”

Her memory in perpetuity

In 2019 Colby alumni came together to name the head men’s basketball coach’s office in her honor. The Mary Kay Whitmore P’91 Head Coach Office in the Harold Alfond Athletics and Recreation Center is currently occupied by Strahorn. Every day when he comes into his office and passes the plaque bearing her name, it has meaning. “It’s really a testament to the role she played in supporting Coach Whitmore, allowing him to be the fullest coach he could be,” Strahorn said.

“With every passing year, I have an even greater appreciation for the Colby basketball family. It is like none other in the country,” said Trustee Tim O’Donnell ’87, who helped spearhead the fundraising effort for the office. “And Colby basketball had no greater friend than Mary Kay Whitmore. Along with Coach Whitmore, she was one of the pillars upon which the basketball family was built. She not only welcomed us, but she also invested in each and every one of us, always taking a true interest in us and our families.”

A life centered on family

Whitmore was born Mary Katherine Doyle in Milton, Mass., where she spent her childhood. She graduated from Milton High School in 1962 and earned a degree from Cardinal Cushing College in 1966.

Her first date with Dick Whitmore was a Boston Celtics basketball game, setting the course for their lifelong love of the game. They married in 1966 and settled in Waterville to raise their family. She was the backbone of the Whitmore family, said Strahorn, who came to know the four Whitmore children over the years. “I always feel like you see the strength of kids because of the parents and how they were raised. I think their kids are a fantastic testament of that, and certainly of Mary Kay’s significant role in that regard.”

Outside of the home, she was employed with the Waterville Public Schools and the Pine Tree Basketball Clinic.

For both Mary Kay and Dick Whitmore, Colby basketball was a family affair. Holding team dinners, attending games, and staying in touch with students after they graduated were some of the many ways the Whitmores created a family atmosphere. And when fundraising opportunities arose, Colby basketball alumni never hesitated to step up.

“I think one of the beauties of our incredible basketball alumni group is whether it’s $10,000 or $100, everyone is just amazingly ready to chip in,” said Strahorn. “They want to be a part of it. The fabric of that alumni group is centered on Coach Whitmore and, by extension, Mrs. Whitmore.”

A legacy to celebrate

Whitmore’s memory will be ever-present in the Colby basketball community and at the Pine Tree camp, having impacted many lives over the decades.

“She was a gift to Colby basketball,” said O’Donnell, “and her contributions are appreciated and will live on.”

The Whitmore family gathered on campus for the 2019 celebration of the naming of the Mary Kay Whitmore P’91 Head Coach Office and the Richard L. Whitmore Jr. Head Coach for Colby Men’s Basketball.

Mary Kay Whitmore leaves her husband of 57 years, Richard “Dick” Whitmore; four children, Dick Whitmore, Kevin Whitmore ’91, Maribeth Whitmore Hartley, and Amanda Whitmore; and seven grandchildren.

A celebration of her life will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 19, in the Parker-Reed Room in the Schair-Swenson-Watson Alumni Center at Colby. All are invited. Condolences may be expressed online.