Mary Ellen St. John (81) of Vero Beach Florida, died peacefully on July 27th, at home with family at her bedside. She was born on July 7th, 1935, in Old Town ME, the eldest daughter of the late Dolores and William St. John.
Mary Ellen grew up surrounded by a boisterous, large extended family that she held close to her heart. She filled her life with adventure from a young age until her retirement in 1998 and she successfully challenged countless boundaries with her grace, intelligence and humor. In 1954, she represented the State of Maine at the Miss America Pageant, followed this with a career as a fashion model and beauty consultant, eventually becoming a leading hotel management executive and the first woman General Manager at two world renowned luxury hotel chains.
Mary Ellen settled and raised three girls in East Windsor CT, where she was very involved in local and state politics, the Democratic Town Committee and local theater groups. When her last daughter entered school, she began a career in fashion and quickly became one of the top regional models known as the "Connecticut Cover Girls."
After modeling, Mary Ellen launched a career in hotels, starting in sales, she quickly moved into management becoming a General Manager within 5 years. She became known for her ability to transform distressed properties, turnaround declining revenues and her generous mentoring and creative management style. Through her example, she encouraged many to pursue life long careers in the hotel industry. She retired in 1998 from the Canyon Ranch Hotel & Spa in the Berkshires, which won Best Spa in the World an unprecedented 5 times during her tenure as Managing Director.
She was an early champion for women's rights attending the historic march in Washington DC for the Equal Rights Amendment in 1978 and was a sought after speaker on woman's issues in the workplace. By personally overcoming obstacles in the hotel industry and later ensuring that women were recognized and promoted at the hotels she managed, she helped change the culture of the industry.
Mary Ellen was reunited with John "Jack" Whitmore in 2005, fifty years after they met as students at the University of Maine. They were married in 2011 in Key Biscayne. They spent the first years of their marriage in Lenox, MA where Mary Ellen pursued her interests in the arts and indulged her love of gardening. She and her husband moved to Vero Beach five years ago.
She was a successful businesswoman, devoted mother, grandmother and wife, and a dear friend to many.
She is survived by her husband John (Jack) Whitmore, from Portland, ME; her daughters Nanci Tellam, Key Biscayne FL, Stacey Seis, Brookfield, CT and Lisa Dority, Miami, FL, their husbands Steve, Dean and Jeffery; grandchildren Kyle, Demeri and Nicholas Seis, Drew and Seana Bruff; brothers Kenneth and Mathew St. John, sister Loyce St John and 14 nieces/nephews. She is predeceased by daughter Autumn Leigh Dority, sister Deborah Barry, and brother William Maynard St. John
In lieu of flowers, donations to the David Lynch Foundation (www.davidlynchfoundation.org/donate or 228 East 45th Street, NY, NY 10017) please include note that gift is in memory of Mary Ellen St. John.
Arrangements are under the direction of Strunk Funeral Home and Crematory, Vero Beach.
A guest book is available at www.strunkfuneralhome.com.