Even 20 years after he left Anne Arundel, even when he was too sick to leave the nursing home where he spent the last years of his life, former County Councilman John M. Whitmore couldn't get enough of local politics.
Right up until Sunday, when he died of heart failure at the Elks National Home in Bedford, Va., at age 80, Whitmore depended on his old Anne Arundel friends to keep him up to date on the goings-on in county politics.
An active supporter of the Anne Arundel charter before its adoption in 1964 and a member of the first County Council, Whitmore corresponded with former state senator and County Executive Joseph W. Alton, Councilman George Bachman, D-Linthicum, and former council secretary Evelyn Boettcher to the end.
All three remember him as a modest man more interested in doing good for the county than in achieving personal prominence.
"In my 25 years in public life, I don't know anyone who gave as much and got as little for it," Alton said Wednesday. Alton was Anne Arundel's first executive.
Long after Whitmore left the county, "he liked to hear what was going on in government. He had a very fervent interest in anything that went on in our county," Boettcher said. "I would send him (newspaper) articles I thought would interest him. I gathered all the newspapers during the election, and in a few days I would get a call saying how much he enjoyed them and how surprised he was at this, that or the other."
"He called me (after the election), and he really knew more about the outcome than I did," said Alton, who lives in Annapolis.
Whitmore penned his last letter to Bachman, who served on the council with Whitmore during the 1960s and recently was re-elected to that body, on Nov. 23. He wrote, "Don't apologize for the slow answering of letters. When you are in the midst of a political campaign you don't even have time to eat or sleep. I remember well."
Elected in 1965 to represent the Annapolis area on the first County Council, Whitmore, a Democrat, served as chairman until his retirement in 1970. Before joining the council, he was a member of the Maryland House of Delegates from 1955 to 1962. In 1962, he ran unsuccessfully for the state Senate.
Bachman remembers Whitmore working so hard on council matters that his printing business, Whitmore Printing and Stationery Co. in Annapolis, suffered.
"He wasn't the guy out there looking for headlines," Bachman said. "He was a quiet individual who did most of his work on the QT."
"He was a very easygoing, even-tempered person," Boettcher said. "I don't think I ever saw him get out of patience with anyone, and I'm sure there were many times on that council when he must have lost patience.
"He was just a kind, caring man who had a very great interest in his community and wanted to do what he could for it."
"I always tried to give him the credit he deserved, and he never got it," Alton said. "He never sought it, and for some reason he wasn't the kind of political figure who went out projecting himself."
Whitmore was born in Washington, D.C., and spent his early years in St.
Mary's County. He received his only formal education from his parents, an Episcopal priest and a teacher.
He became interested in printing as a child when he was given a printing press. In the 1920s, after his family had moved to Reisterstown, he started the Whitmore Printing Co. and became interested in politics.
Friends say he switched to the Republican party several years ago, long after he left Anne Arundel.
Whitmore moved to Florida in 1970 and to the Elks National Home in Bedford, Va., about two years ago. He sent a picture of the home to Bachman with his last letter, describing it as a place "where 250 old geezers are living out their final years and thinking of all the things they miss doing."
Whitmore's wife, the former Margaret Elizabeth Lowe, died in 1973. He is survived by a daughter, Elizabeth W. Moffatt, of Baltimore; a sister, Marcia W. Keen, of Baltimore; and a brother, Paul H. Whitmore, of Annapolis.
Services for Whitmore will be held at 10 a.m. today, at the Taylor Funeral Chapel, 147 Duke of Gloucester St., Annapolis. Memorial contributions may be made to St. Anne's Episcopal Church in Annapolis or St. Paul's Anglican Catholic Church in Port Charlotte.