Kelsey Whitby

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Kelsey Whitby, Local Smile, Soccer Coach, and Nanny, dies at 31.

Love yourself, do what brings you joy, love each other without fear. Those are the words Kelsey lived by, and how she’d want us to live.

Kelsey died in her home in Whitefish on Oct. 7 after a seven-year fight with Glioblastoma Brain Cancer. Her cancer never defined her, and she lived brightly with something so dark in her body.

She leaves behind her son Otto Whitby, husband Derrick Whitby, mother Betsy Funk, siblings Atty Moriarty and Camas Garnett, grandparents Don and Judy Spivey, and many important aunts, uncles, and cousins.

She was pure Kelsey, and that’s why we loved her and why she made such an impact with so many of us. She was bursting with joy, and the root of it was a deep understanding and respect for herself. Love yourself, honor who you are, don’t doubt it ever, and live without looking in the mirror. It’s a nearly impossible quest, but she did it with grace and left behind a fine example for the rest of us.

Incredibly smart, she had lots of wit behind her and was always the first to crack back with a sassy, witty response. Offensive to the weak, hilarious to the rest. We’ll dearly miss this. Our daily dose from Kelsey was a perfectly rationed amount of love, compliment, encouragement, and hell, for which we deserved. We’ll miss all of these things, but we’ll mostly miss being given a hard time. That made us smile again and again, and reminded us to take it all a little less serious. Don’t think too much, have fun, gravitate towards what makes you laugh and feel full, and move away from what doesn’t.

As a mother she was incredibly joyful and loyal. At Otto’s side every day for 21 months, she employed what she called, “free-range parenting,” which essentially meant pour the love on, don’t wonder or care what others think, then pour some more love on top. Otto shines on, bursting with the energy and joy she gave him, and can’t be missed walking down the street with his bow legs, big smile, laugh, and beautiful blonde hair. Kelsey didn’t have bow legs, but you couldn’t miss her walking, and of course she had a big smile, laugh, and beautiful blonde hair herself. If Marilyn Monroe was, “The only blonde on Earth,” then Kelsey was the second.

She touched many in our community. A great teacher, friend, nanny, and coach, there are many fortunate people to have known her and studied under her. She enjoyed spending time with family, exploring the mountains, hiking, soccer, gardening, watching Law & Order, and most of all, being with children. If she was at a party, she was playing with the kids, and they were all comforted by her, and loved her. She was a nanny for many children in the Flathead and Gallatin valleys, who she nurtured and proudly watched develop to be joyful young adults. Every season she coached the Flathead Rapids, taking more pride in watching them grow as a team of players and friends than winning matches.

She never let grief define her battle with cancer. If friends or family let sadness get the best of them, she wouldn’t tolerate it, once saying, “Don’t be sad. Pull it together.” Someday we will all see her again and get to continue our adventure with her, but in the meantime she would ask us to live along those lines. Pull it together, live like she’s here, love yourself, do what brings you joy, love each other without fear. Love life because you’re alive.

In lieu of flowers, please donate to the Flathead Rapids scholarship fund to help give all kids the opportunity to kick the ball, at Flathead Rapids, P.O. Box 241, ATTN: Kelsey Whitby Scholarship Fund, Whitefish, MT 59937.

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