Feb 202013

leader of the pack

George “Doc” Whitney, 94, at this year’s Chilly Chili 5K Road Race

On Tuesday, we learned that George “Doc” Whitney was unable to speak, write or use his computer. He had given up his will to live and hospice was coming to his daughter’s home to check in on him.

Today, his daughter Kate reports that he’s resting comfortably.

Let’s all keep Doc in our thoughts and prayers until he’s back to his old self again.

Original Story:

It is with great sadness that I relay this message from Kate Whitney Consiglio to all of you:

This morning Kate wrote, “I want the town to know my dad, George D. Whitney has lost his spirit and has come to the end. We have hospice coming in today. He is unable to speak or use the computer or write, so anybody who knows him, knows this is not the life he is used to living. He is not in any pain that we can tell and his 3 girls are with him and will be until the end. I am writing on this page because I know how well loved he has been by the town he lived in and loved for 75 years. Please keep him in your thoughts and prayers.”

I met “Doc” Whitney in 2000 when he was 81 years old, he was wearing mismatched socks and a T-shirt that he personalized with a catchy saying in magic marker. His race number was “81” just like his age, all of these things remained his trademarks for the next 13 years.

I had the pleasure of sitting down with Doc several times over the past decade, most memorable were the time he told me about how he began running — at the age of 80.

He said he would walk down his long driveway to get the mail, and was winded by the time he reached the mailbox.

He consulted with his son — who I believe was a running coach somewhere — and learned how to run, breathe and pace himself on the track at Yale.

The following year he was ready, and took on the Chilly Chili Run 5K on New Year’s Day.

Jane Opper recalls creating a new age category to accommodate Doc Whitney, and people would wait by the finish line to cheer him on as he crossed.

Doc at the starting line

Doc at the starting line

One year Doc didn’t show up for the race and I called his home to see if he was ok. His wife, Dorothy said he was a little under the weather but that he would be there the following year. And he was.

After Dorothy passed away Doc lived alone in their custom built home  for a while. But at his daughter’s urging decided to leave Orange, where he’d lived for 75 years and move in with family in Vermont.

He invited me over to his home to tell me about his life and career as a veterinarian in Orange, and everything else he’d done over his lifetime. He loved his house, which was evident during our tour — what a unique place it is!

When he moved, Doc mapped out a route up there, and continued to run and keep in shape, every year returning to the Chilly Run, where, by now, organizers had set up a new age category for 90 and over.

Doc was joined by a few youngsters over the years ages 90 and over, yet, even up till 7 weeks ago when he crossed the finish line, he remained the oldest runner in Chilly Run history.
Always full of life and humor, Doc Whitney was the “belle of the ball” at the Chilly Run.

Opper recalls how he would joke with the other runners and enjoyed everyone’s company whenever he returned to Orange.

When I told her about Kate’s note, she expressed deep sadness and began to cry. She said he had a tough time at this year’s Chilly Run, stopping before he crossed the finish line because he couldn’t make it in one continuous run, but he did cross the line like a true champion.

“Doc has always had so much energy. Such a positive outlook on life and even when he fell in the 2012 race, I called him on the phone, and he said ‘I can’t hear who you are, but thank you for calling.'” she said. “He was bound and determined to come back and finish the race this year, and he did.

Doc didn't write a clever saying on his shirt this year, just his age.

Doc didn’t write a clever saying on his shirt this year, just his age.

“During the award ceremony, his daughter kept asking if he wanted to sit down, and he said “NO” he would not take a chair,” Opper said. “He is such a wonderful person and a big part of Orange.”

“I’m heartbroken, this is so sad,” Opper said. “He was an inspiration to everybody, especially the older runners showing them that anything is possible. He is such an important person to the town of Orange — he was our veterinarian when I was a child. We are always so happy to see him when he comes back to Orange.”

I know I join all of you in sending Doc our prayers.

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