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Thursday, October 05, 2006

Mary Ellen White, Little League “Heart and Soul,” Dies at 84

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Mary Ellen White, known as the “heart and soul” of Westport Little League, died Wednesday at Norwalk Hospital. She was Image
Flashback: Mary Ellen White thanks Westport Rotary for honoring her last Nov. 17.  (CLICK TO ENLARGE) WestportNow file photo

The cause of death was cancer, according to the Harding Funeral Home.

White was honored a year ago by the Westport Rotary Club with a community service award as “the heart and soul” of Westport Little League. She has worked since 1992 organizing more than 1,500 children a year into almost 100 teams.

Born May 21, 1922,  in New Haven, she was the daughter of Mary and James White of New Haven, both immigrants to this country from County Kerry, Ireland.

For 16 years, after her first retirement, White was a well known and dedicated community servant in the town of Westport.

In multiple capacities she essentially managed the day to day operations of the Westport Little League- including concessions, volunteers, sponsorships, equipment, uniforms, league registrations and virtually anything else in between.

She was devoted to her family, her faith, her community, and children.

White had accomplished much well before she came to Westport in 1991.

She was a graduate of Hillhouse High School in New Haven in 1942 and a scholarship student at Trinity College in Washington, D.C. in 1946.

White worked in the defense industry with Grumman Aircraft during the war in a technical position.

After the war, she directed her professional aspirations to the emerging industry of television, initially in production as part of the BBD&O ad agency.

One of her first jobs was on “Super Circus.” Subsequently she opened her own office as an agent for commercial and television actors, the MEW Agency, in New York in 1957.

In 1965, she expanded operations into the West Coast and became one of the first and one of the largest female owned agencies in Hollywood and New York.

In Los Angeles, she developed and managed the careers of numerous actors and actresses appearing in the major television series for more than 25 years including the late Isabel Sanford, “Sanford & Son” and “The Jeffersons;” Dick Van Patten and the Van Patten sons, Jimmy and Vinny, “Eight is Enough,” and Richard Hatch, “Baywatch.”

Many of her stable also had continuing roles in shows such as “The Six Million Dollar Man,” “Room 222,” “Laugh-In,” “Little House on the Prairie,” “Happy Days,” “The Love Boat,” “Streets of San Francisco,” “Murder She Wrote,” “Maude,” and “Welcome Back Kotter.”

The MEW agency also managed numerous child stars for print/TV advertisements, and her New York Office also handled sports stars and celebrities for commercial work.

As an active member of the American Academy of Motion Pictures, White added her wisdom to Academy film screenings.

Upon her retirement from the talent management business in 1991, she moved back east to be closer to her older brother and his wife living in Ridgefield, and her nephew Jeffrey and his family residing in Westport.

It was then she launched her second career with the Westport Little League.

She was the youngest ( the “Babe”) of three children. Her eldest brother James pre-deceased her in 1992, and she is survived by her brother John and his wife Virginia of Glenview, Ill., and Vero Beach, Fla., and James’ spouse, Katherine, of Redding.

In addition to her nieces and nephews (Carolyn White of South Riding, Va,, Jeffrey White of Westport, Dr. John D. White of Potomac, Md., Judge Kathleen White Ramirez of Davis, Calif., Madeleine White of Coppell, Texas, and Michael White of Atlanta, Ga.)  there are 13 grand nieces and nephews as well.

Visiting hours at the wake will be Sunday, 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Harding Funeral Home in Westport.

The funeral mass will be held Monday at 10 a.m. at St. Luke Roman Catholic Church in Westport with a reception immediately after.

Burial will be for family members only at St. Lawrence Cemetery in New Haven.

Memorial contributions may be made in to the Mary Ellen White Memorial Fund, Trinity College, 125 Michigan Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20017-1094.

Posted 10/05/06 at 11:48 PM


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She was an amazing woman. This town has lost a true treasure. My sympathy to Mary Ellen’s family…Westport grieves with you.

Posted by Shannon Hanley on October 06, 2006 at 04:15 AM | #

Mary Ellen was a feisty, selfless contributor to the town and its youth.  I remember her stern treatment of parents in manning the snack stand or picking up uniforms God Bless you Mary Ellen, if we all aspired to your ideals the town and yes the WORLD would be a better place

Posted by chip stephens on October 06, 2006 at 11:04 PM | #

I worked with Mary Ellen from her first year in the League.  She was an amazing women with more energy and dedication than those half her age.  I would like to correct the information in the article.  Mary Ellen created teams for 1,500 children every year therefore in her 14 years with the league she touched the lives of more than 10,000 children. Literally an entire generation of the children of Westport are indebted to Mary Ellen.  Mary Ellen’s dedication to Westport Little League wil always live on as the concession at White field is named for her. We will all miss her. Our thoughts and prayers are with her and all who loved her.
—Adam Freeman Ex-Pres Westport Little League

Posted by Adam Freeman on October 08, 2006 at 12:30 AM | #

I never knew Mary Ellen, but as current Little League coach for my two children and a former Westport Little League player, I am grateful for all that she did to grow Little League in Westport.

At our softball games yesterday we held a moment of silence for Mary Ellen.  None of the girls that lined up on the basepaths for the moment of silence had ever met Mary Ellen.  But from the words of Bill Meyer and Steve Axthelm, they learned how important she was to the game in Westport.  And they learned an important lesson about dedication and sacrifice.

John McCarthy

Posted by John McCarthy on October 08, 2006 at 11:10 AM | #

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