Former Eastern basketball and track & field standout passed away on Feb. 25
A “Celebration of Life” for Eastern Washington University Athletics Hall of Fame member Pat Whitehill will take place on Sunday, June 3 at 1 p.m. at the Showalter Auditorium on the EWU campus in Cheney, Wash. Whitehill passed away on Feb. 25 after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. He was 82.
The 1951 Eastern graduate was a standout in men’s basketball and track and field for Eastern, then spent 30 years as a member of EWU’s physical education department.
In 2001, Whitehill was selected as an individual member of the Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame. Ten years later, in 2011, the 1949-50 Eastern basketball team he played on was also inducted into the Hall of Fame. Earlier, he became a member of the Inland Empire Basketball Officials Hall of Fame in honor of his 16-year career.
After a highly-successful collegiate career in basketball and track and field at Eastern, Whitehill coached track for two seasons at Eastern in the 1960's, with Eastern finishing as high as fifth in the NAIA Championships. He served as a professor of physical education at Eastern for 30 years after receiving four college degrees. He served as Eastern faculty president and chairman of the academic senate, and later became president of the school's retired faculty organization.
Since 1955, Pat and his wife, Altamae, have been avid supporters of Eastern's athletic department and members of the Eagle Athletic Association, with Pat serving as chairman of the committee that dedicated the Reese Room and Reese Court in honor of his former coach. Pat has also served on the Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame selection committee since its inception in 1996, and has served as a “player” in numerous EAA annual fund drives.
Pat came to Eastern from Goldendale, Wash., and was a basketball player and track and field standout. He played basketball for Red Reese for four years from 1948-51, during which Eastern teams won 77 games and lost just 35. He averaged 9.3 points and 8.9 rebounds as a senior when Eastern repeated as Evergreen Conference champions.
Whitehill was a member of the Red Reese All-Time Team, representing the top 13 players Reese coached in 31 seasons at the helm. Whitehill played on Eastern's squad in 1949-50 that finished 23-7 and was regarded by Reese as his best team.
In track, Whitehill won Evergreen Conference pole vault and high jump titles, and at one time held the school's high jump record. Pat received his undergraduate degree from Eastern in 1951, a Master's in Education from Eastern in 1956, a Master's in Science from Oregon in 1961 and his Doctorate of Education from Oregon in 1963.
Pat and Altamae were married on March 31, 1951, in Okanogan, Wash. They raised three sons – Barry, Terry and David, and currently have eight grandchildren. Apart from their sons, Pat and Altamae had many exchange students living with them, including Eastern students from China, Germany, England, Sweden, South Africa and Singapore.
Both remained active physically after they graduated from Eastern, and became avid backpackers. In the summer of 1984 they climbed Mount Rainier, with Altamae reaching the 12,400-foot level and Pat climbing all the way to the top of the 14,411-foot peak. They also made an 80-mile canoe trip on Bowron Lake in British Columbia.
From 1974-90, Pat played in five national racquetball tournaments, winning three individual championships and four doubles titles. He helped bring the 1974 World Racquetball Championships to Eastern in conjunction with the World's Fair in Spokane.
They retired in 1993 to warmer weather in Clarkston, Wash., for fly-fishing and golf. In 2011, they celebrated their 60th anniversary. Sadly, Pat’s health from Parkinson’s Disease deteriorated to the point where on Dec. 18, 2011, he was in the hospital, a rehabilitation center and then spent his final days in a care center.
M. Patrick (Pat) Whitehill passed away Feb. 25, 2012, after a long and courageous fight against the effects of Parkinson's disease. The world has lost a passionate fly fisherman, a skilled hunter, a tremendous athlete, a canny bridge player, a loving husband and a supportive and generous father and grandfather.
Pat was born in The Dalles, Ore., Aug. 1, 1929. He was raised by his mother, Vera Whitehill, with his two siblings, Vera Beth and LeRoy. Pat began fly-fishing as a young boy, and he soon added hunting to his list of favorite activities. He often said that he was "saved" by sports, finding his motivation to stay in school and remain a good citizen because of the rewards he found in competition. Pat earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Education from Eastern Washington University, and it was there that he met his wife of 60 years, Altamae Sims. While at Eastern, Pat was a star athlete on the basketball and track teams.
While working as a teacher, first in Chewelah, Wash., and then in Cheney, Pat went on to study for his master's and doctorate degrees at the University of Oregon.
Pat and his wife Altamae raised three sons in Cheney: Barry, Terry and David. Being a teacher agreed with Pat. He loved being around young people, and he appreciated having a job that allowed him to "play" every day. He was a beloved physical education instructor at Eastern Washington University for 30 years. Among Pat's many athletic accomplishments were the numerous national championships he won in the master's racquetball division from 1982-1990. Pat was inducted into the EWU Athletic Hall of Fame in September 2001.
Pat's retirement years were filled with travel, camping, fly-fishing and card games with friends and grandchildren. Although Parkinson's slowed Pat down and made it more difficult for him to do the things he loved, he never gave up trying to pursue the hobbies that made him happy. His courage was an inspiration to everyone who knew him.
Pat is survived by his wife, Altamae; brother LeRoy of Seattle; sister Vera Beth of Vancouver, Wash.; his three sons, Barry (Patti) of Fairbanks, Alaska, Terry (Karen) of Portland, Ore., and David (Lorrie) of Kailua Kona, Hawaii; eight grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.