Elizabeth McKinley Whitman, a Houston resident for more than 30 years, passed away on January 29, 2022 at the age of 95 in Newbury, Ohio where she lived for the past two years.
Betsy was born on June 6, 1926 in Rockland, Maine and grew up in the neighboring town of Union where she was the Salutatorian of the Union High School class of 1943. After obtaining a post-graduate degree from The Northfield School for Girls, Betsy enrolled at Mount Holyoke College, where she studied history, graduating in 1948. During college she worked as a blueberry inspector for the State of Maine’s Department of Agriculture. After earning her degree she worked as an Assistant Jewelry Buyer at Filene’s Department Store in Boston.
In 1952, Betsy moved to Washington, D.C. and began her career with the Office of Strategic Services, the predecessor of the Central Intelligence Agency. At the CIA, Betsy learned to read and write Russian, worked behind the scenes on the Strategic Arms Limitations Talks (SALT II), and served as the head of the CIA’s classified library. Upon her retirement in 1979, Betsy was awarded the Career Intelligence Medal by CIA Director Admiral Stansfield Turner. The medal is awarded to individuals for a cumulative record of service which reflects exceptional achievements that substantially contributed to the mission of the Agency.
After retiring for the CIA, Betsy had a very successful career as a Million Dollar Club realtor in McLean, Virginia, where she lived for 15 years. Clients appreciated her competence, discretion, and even temperament. A contract signing, just steps from the Oval Office and executed with a Ronald Reagan commemorative pen, was one of the highlights of her real estate career.
Betsy enjoyed spending time in London and exploring the U.K. during the ten years she and Bob had a flat in Kensington and at their summer home in Boothbay Harbor, Maine where she maintained a beautiful perennial garden into her mid 80’s. Her love of gardening was obvious in the yards of all her homes and led her to serve as the President of the Potomac Woods Garden Club in Maryland from 1969 to 1970. Betsy and Bob moved to Houston in 1990 to be closer to their grandchildren and Betsy made the most of it, spending afternoons with them playing soccer, hockey, and catch. She especially loved spending time with her family in Maine boating, sitting by the campfire, and playing Monopoly on rainy days.
Betsy was resilient, tough, and rarely complained. These traits were especially evident as she fought off lymphoma in 2002, 2007 and, thankfully for the last time, in 2013 and endured the COVID lockdown at her assisted living facility. Betsy was a lifelong Boston Red Sox fan who loved her family, wild Maine blueberries, cinnamon roll muffins, and Whitman’s chocolates. She was deeply loved and will be missed. We were fortunate to have had such a long time with this amazing woman.
Betsy was preceded in death by her husband of 60 years, Robert (Bob) Whitman, her parents Robert and Edna McKinley, her sister Ruth Herridge, and her brother-in-law Bill Whitman and his wife Alvida. She is survived by her daughter Alison Phillips and her husband Jim; her grandchildren Andrew Chambers, his wife Liz and their sons Jack and Benjamin, David Chambers and his wife Allison, and Megan Phillips. She is also survived by her brother-in-law Bill Herridge and five nieces, Jennifer Wallace, Jean Runyon, Elizabeth Herridge, Margaret Herridge, Catherine Herridge, and their families.
A private memorial service and burial will be held in Union, Maine this summer.
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