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Beth Willhoite


1953 - 2017 Obituary Condolences
Beth Willhoite Obituary
Beth Willhoite, 63
FREEPORT - With her adoring family by her side, Beth Willhoite passed away on Jan. 5, 2017 at Mercy Hospital in Portland.
Her wonderful life was filled with a deep love of family and friends, of her career, of home and gardening, of nature and the outdoors.
Beth was born Mary Beth Neitzel on May 10, 1953, in Hamilton, Ohio, the daughter of Jane and Robert Neitzel. In the early 1960s Beth moved with her family to Marblehead, Mass., where she lived and attended schools until graduating from Marblehead High in 1971. She went on to earn a B.A. from Bates College in Lewiston in 1975, and an M.S. from Iowa State University in Ames in 1977.
While at Bates, she met her husband-to-be John Willhoite, whom she married in 1976. They had two children, a son, Peter, born in 1982, and a daughter, Sarah, born in 1984.
Beth and John settled in the Norway-South Paris area, where Beth began her first career, in health care, as a consultant for the Maine Diabetes Control Project, working to improve educational opportunities about the disease to diabetics statewide.
After the family moved to Freeport in 1983, where they have lived since, Beth found her second career and her true calling: as an educator. She began as an elementary school teacher in Falmouth. She eventually moved to the elementary Mast Landing School in Freeport, where she served first as a teaching principal and then as principal. The move to Mast Landing fulfilled a career-long dream for Beth, whose children attended the school in the 1990s. She loved the job, she loved her colleagues and she especially loved being with the students. She was a fixture on the playground, often happily joining in games of four-square and kickball, and holding her own. And whatever the weather she could be found in the bus circle, greeting kids in the morning and sending them on their way after school.
One of the great joys of Beth's life was being with her friends, with any friend, but especially with a small group of buddies from her days at Marblehead High School, with whom she had regular, raucous reunions. And also with a tight circle of friends who came to be known as the "Freeport mamas." They treasured the gift of their bond and could frequently be seen moving as a herd on one of their innumerable walks, gabbing non-stop. It was clear that to Beth and the mamas, it was pure bliss.
As Beth battled the pancreatic cancer that would ultimately take her life - and she did battle it bravely until the very end - she became, to her family and friends, a heroic symbol of the way to take on a dread disease. She endured countless needle sticks, scans, surgeries and awful therapies that sometimes seemed worse than the sickness she was fighting. She traveled many times to world-class cancer centers in Boston, never abandoning hope that she might catch lightning in a bottle, something that might make the tumors shrink, or even disappear. She was a determined and relentless advocate for herself, politely but persistently plying oncologists and radiologists, surgeons and anesthesiologists, and nurse practitioners, physician assistants and nurses with questions that needed answers. And even when it became apparent that it was a fight that she probably was not going to win, she complained seldom and continued to embrace life as she always had, with all the vigor she could muster. She never gave up.
Beth loved being outside. Whether pruning perennials in her meticulously tended gardens, or bobbing on the family boat in Casco Bay, or standing atop Katahdin, which she summited a dozen times over 25 years of annual family pilgrimages to Baxter State Park, she cherished her time in the outdoors. She biked, she hiked, she walked, she ran, she skied. She was a force of nature in the natural world.
Most of all, Beth loved being a mother and a grandmother (8-month-old Delphine was the new light of her life). She was a proud member of a tightknit group of likeminded Freeport moms who reared her own children, and helped rear her children's friends, whose mothers helped rear her children, with a brightly burning passion and obvious joy. And when her children, and her children's friends, became fine adults and began having children themselves, Beth liked nothing better than hanging out with them and admiring, with a knowing twinkle, her handiwork and that of her fellow moms.
Beth is survived by her husband, John; her son, Peter, and his wife, Karen, and their daughter, Delphine; a daughter, Sarah; her mother, Jane Neitzel; a brother, Jim Neitzel, and his wife, Kim Neitzel; a sister, Jill Neitzel; nieces Hannah Kempton and Jenna and Lindsay Neitzel; nephews Rueben, Judson and Isaac Kempton and David Neitzel; her mother-in-law, Betty Willhoite; and her brother-in-law, Mark Willhoite.
A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 21, at the Freeport Performing Arts Center. A celebration of Beth's life will follow at 5 p.m. at the Muddy Rudder Restaurant in Yarmouth.

In lieu of flowers, donations
may be made to:
Freeport Community Services,
an organization
Beth greatly admired.


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Published in Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram on Jan. 8, 2017
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