angle-left Marvin Willhite Obituary

Marvin Willhite Obituary

American Quarter Horse Hall of Famer Marvin Willhite died June 12.

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American Quarter Horse Hall of Famer John Marvin Willhite, 88, was born south of Holly, Colorado, on January 8, 1931, to John and Louise Willhite. He departed this life on June 12, 2019, at the Holly Nursing Care Center in Holly, Colorado.

Willhite was born during the beginning of the Dust Bowl Era. He was a student at a one-room schoolhouse until moving into town to attend Holly High School. After high school, he attended college at Colorado A&M, which became Colorado State University. While there, he was a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity and ROTC.

In 1951, Willhite married his sweetheart, Pat (Donohoe). They were blessed with three children, Jeanne, Cathy and David. Soon after they were married, Willhite joined the U.S. Air Force where he served as an officer for four years. Following their time in the service, Marvin and Pat moved back to Holly to begin their lifelong partnership in farming and ranching.

Photo Credit: Valley Memorial Funeral Chapel

Willhite was serving as the mayor of Holly and helped navigate the community through the 1965 flood.

While farming and ranching was his business, horses were his passion. He and Pat owned and bred show and racehorses for many years.

In 1964, Willhite added three Quarter Horse mares to his agricultural ventures. Purchased from his uncle, Willhite bought the mares for his three children to ride and show. According to Willhite, “showing horses was something the family could work on together.”

Those first three mares were the foundation for Willhite’s breeding program. The mares included Little Lou Pep, Thirsty Pet and Miss Dipsy Doll produced winning racehorses Easy Jet Doll and Master Straw. Little Lou Pep and Thirsty Pet produced show ring point earners Thirsty’s Image, Thirsty’s Tiger and Barometer Bar.

When the children were younger, the family enjoyed time together raising and showing horses. Later, Willhite focused on his love of racehorses. A few years after the flood, he was one of the original founders of Gateway Downs Racetrack in Holly. He contributed in many ways to Gateway Downs from its inception through the 1990s.

Willhite was a longtime member of AQHA, serving as a director from 1980 to 1999, president of the Rocky Mountain Quarter Horse Association and an AQHA director-at-large from 2000 to present. Willhite served on the AQHA Racing Committee and bred successful racing American Quarter Horses.

Among the horses he bred was Dolls Prodigy, a daughter of Ronas Ryon whom he co-owned with Tom Bradbury. The mare earned $117,535 on the racetrack, and set the 350-yard world record in 1999 at Arapahoe Park. Among her foals is Shazooms Doll ($92,275), who is herself a notable producer of with foal earnings of more than $640,000.

Willhite had the honor of being inducted into the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame in 2007.

Marvin and Pat enjoyed traveling, fishing and spending time at their mountain cabin. The cabin was a special place they shared with family and friends. It’s where the grandchildren loved learning how to fish and snow ski.

Willhite is survived by his three children, Jeanne Allen and husband John, Cathy Hammes and husband John David, and David and wife Cheryl all of Holly; brother Bill Willhite of Holly; eight grandchildren; seven great -grandchildren; many other relatives and a host of friends.

He was preceded in death by his parents; wife Pat; two infant children; and sister-in-law Roberta Willhite. Memorial contributions may be made to the Holly Fire and Ambulance Fund in care of Valley Memorial Funeral Chapel, P.O. Box 950, Lamar, CO 81052.

Funeral services for Marvin are at 2 p.m. on June 18 at the Holly United Methodist Church. Pastor Kathy Leathers will officiate. Interment will follow in the Holly Cemetery. Visitation for Marvin will be held from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on June 17 at Valley Memorial Funeral Chapel in Holly. For more information or to leave online condolences, please visit