Margaret “Peggy” Sandhagen Whitmire has died. Whitmire passed away on Dec. 12 at Missouri Baptist Hospital, from complications due to a recent illness. She was 91.
Whitmire was married for 67 years to Blanton J. Whitmire, former owner of Whitmire Research Laboratories and creator of the innovative “crack and crevice” technology. The couple has lived in Kirkwood, Mo., for the last 56 years. In October, Kirkwood Mayor Art McDonnell publicly honored the couple on their anniversary.
Whitmire was a nature lover and gardening enthusiast who particularly loved wildflowers. In 1987 her husband donated a five-acre wildflower garden at Missouri Botanical Garden’s Shaw Nature Reserve as a birthday gift, establishing the Whitmire Wildflower Garden. The area opened in 1993 and currently is home to more than 800 species of native Missouri plants.
Whitmire was born in Chicago in 1918. Her family moved frequently during her childhood, finally settling in St. Louis when Whitmire was 11. Her father, a CPA, planted a garden wherever he lived, instilling in his daughter a lifelong love of ecology.
Whitmire graduated from St. Louis’ University City High School in 1937. She was accepted to attend Washington University but did not for economic reasons. However Whitmire went on to enroll in a number of college courses in later years.
Whitmire met her husband during World War II while working as a secretary at the Ralston Purina Co. in St. Louis. They married in New York City, and Blanton was shipped overseas to serve with the U.S. Army. He later became owner and president of his brother’s insecticide company, Whitmire Research Laboratories.
In the 1960s Blanton developed the innovative “crack and crevice” aerosol technology which revolutionized the pest control industry worldwide. His company eventually merged with a number of other entities, becoming Whitmire Micro-Gen Research Laboratories. The entity was acquired by BASF in 2008.
Whitmire spent much of her life giving back to the community and sustaining a variety of educational, religious, and environmental causes. She was a Girl Scout leader when her children were young, a deacon and elder for the First Presbyterian Church of Kirkwood, a food pantry volunteer, Sunday school teacher, room mother, Meals on Wheels driver and volunteer at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. Whitmire also supported Gateway Greening, a nonprofit organization that maintains urban gardens throughout St. Louis.
Throughout their retirement years the couple has been involved in numerous outreach projects and charitable endeavors, many focused on ecology and higher education. They established endowments at numerous institutions, including Western Carolina University, St. Louis Community College, and St. Louis’ Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, a nonprofit scientific facility dedicated to improving the human condition through plant science.
Whitmire and her husband received the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Greensfelder Award for their support in 2004. In 2005 Whitmire received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Western Carolina University.
Friends and former Whitmire colleagues describe Whitmire as a giving, thoughtful individual who reached out to others. “I’m deeply saddened by the passing of Peg Whitmire,” said Gary Curl, owner of Specialty Products Consultants in Mendham, N.J. and a former employee of Whitmire Micro-Gen Research Laboratories. “She was a wonderful lady with a heart of gold. Peg was unconditionally supportive of me and my family throughout the years. We will all miss her dearly.”
“Peg Whitmire was the epitome of a gentle spirit and as a friend of over 40 years,” said June Van Klaveren, another longtime employee who now owns Compelling Communications in Manchester, Mo. “She will be greatly missed.”
Whitmire is survived by her husband, daughter Catherine, son Richard, and three grandchildren.
A memorial service was held Saturday, Dec. 18, at the First Presbyterian Church of Kirkwood, on what would have been Whitmire’s 92nd birthday. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Gateway Greening, www.gatewaygreening.org, or the Whitmire Wildflower Garden at Shaw Nature Reserve, P.O. Box 38, Gray Summit, MO 63039.