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Remembering An Icon: Local VIPs Memorialize Marylou Whitney 

Everyone from Governor Andrew Cuomo to husband John Hendrickson honor Saratoga's fallen queen.

Marylou Whitney, with her husband John Hendrickson, on one of the many Opening Days at Saratoga Race Course they attended together.

This past summer, Saratoga Springs lost its brightest star and greatest champion, Marylou Whitney. And even though I’ve only lived here for two years, it’s quickly become clear to me that Marylou Whitney was Saratoga. The more I explore the Spa City, the more I learn about this remarkable human being—and the more I want to know. How could one person have had such an impact on a single city? I set out to ask some of the people who knew her best that exact question. Reading their responses, I find myself even more in awe of Marylou Whitney. Her legacy is undeniably extraordinary. I take it back; she’s not just our city’s brightest star; Marylou Whitney is nothing less than Saratoga’s supernova.

(Illustration by Noah Clark)

Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor, State Of New York

“The story of horse racing and the story of Marylou Whitney, the Queen of Saratoga, could not be more intertwined. Marylou was the heart, the spirit, the personality, the mystique, the beauty and the charisma that represents the best of New York’s horse racing industry. Marylou and her husband, John, were the drivers for the industry’s success. Marylou’s extraordinary talent, where everything she touched she just made better, is on full display here in Saratoga.”

Elaina Richardson, President, Yaddo

“Back in 2011, the Marylou Whitney rose was first introduced to the public at Yaddo Gardens. The rose that Marylou and her husband gifted is fragrant, delicately beautiful but resilient and made to stand the rigors of time and upstate life. The gift and the celebration were also, by design, for our whole community and the delight of those who visit Saratoga. She understood how to give in a way that would be enriching to many. That charming combination perfectly encapsulates how Marylou Whitney struck me.”

(Illustration by Noah Clark)

Elizabeth Sobol, President And CEO, Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC)

“Everyone who’s ever called Saratoga home is keenly aware of the great impact Marylou Whitney has had on the city. Her extraordinary generosity and leadership have been key to the success and vitality of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center since its opening. We will sorely miss her presence in this place she loved so much.”

Todd Pletcher, Award-Winning Thoroughbred Trainer

“To say that Marylou Whitney is a Saratoga legend would be an obvious understatement. What stood out to me, as I’m sure it did to many, was her kindness and generosity, and in particular, her work with the backstretch. Her under-the-radar contributions demonstrated that she gave for the sake of giving, an endearing quality that we should all aspire to.”

Sonny and Julie Bonacio, President And Vice President, Bonacio Construction

“Marylou’s beauty, inside and out, and her exceptional kindness to people and giving ways have and will continue to leave a fingerprint on this gem of a community she loved and cared for so much.”

(Illustration by Noah Clark)

Meg Kelly, Mayor, City Of Saratoga Springs

“Marylou Whitney is synonymous with everything that is Saratoga Springs and was a tireless advocate of the city as a true summer tourism destination. Not only did Marylou Whitney provide funding for tangibles—buildings, programs, equipment and gardens—but she also injected Saratoga with an air of festivity, exuberance, vitality and sanguinity that now permeates our city and its culture of giving. Some people call Marylou Whitney the ‘Savior of Saratoga.’ Some consider her the ‘Queen of Saratoga.’ To family, friends and to me, she’ll always be the ‘Soul of Saratoga.’”

(Illustration by Noah Clark)

Paul Tonko, US Congressman (D-NY)

“Marylou Whitney was one of the rare people capable of making anybody smile. Her boundless energy and loving spirit were a treasure, and her incredible devotion to her community and lasting impact are evident at the entrance at the track and on the day of August 3, both aptly named after Marylou Whitney. She was a gift to all who met her, and she will be dearly missed.”

David O’Rourke, President And CEO, New York Racing Association (NYRA)

“An avid horsewoman and true lover of the sport, Marylou Whitney was one of Thoroughbred racing’s greatest ambassadors. As a top breeder and committed supporter of the Thoroughbred industry, she delivered some of the most memorable moments in New York racing history. Yet, it seems that Marylou’s passion for racing was matched only by her love for the City of Saratoga Springs and her support for the backstretch community. Her generosity is evident by the endless list of her contributions. Saratoga wouldn’t be the destination it is today without her.”

Angelo Calbone, President And CEO, Saratoga Hospital

“At Saratoga Hospital, we’re reminded of Marylou Whitney’s legacy every day. She helped bring so many lifesaving healthcare services to our community, and we see the impact that her generosity has—and will continue to have—on virtually every patient we care for. Behind that generosity was an extraordinary energy and enthusiasm. With Marylou on your side, everything seemed possible—and a lot more fun. Her sense of purpose and passion helped transform our hospital and our community and inspires us to strive to do the same.”

Linda Toohey, Founder, Leadership Saratoga

“Besides the myriad improved places and organizations that Marylou made possible for future generations, she also set the bar high for others in the community thinking of making contributions of their time and treasure. She’ll be remembered for her generosity with a purpose, her view of the future while honoring the past, her glamour with a sense of passion and providing support for the community that will extend decades into the future.”

Tas Steiner, Founder And President, Whispering Angels Of Saratoga Springs

“Growing up locally—and as a longtime patron of Saratoga Springs’ racetrack, SPAC, restaurants and stores—I had the pleasure of seeing Marylou Whitney do what she did best from the 1970s through the 2010s. She had an uncanny ability to bedazzle us all while simultaneously raising important funds for numerous charities and community support groups. Marylou Whitney had the power to bring thousands together; her contributions to Saratoga were unparalleled; and her legacy in Saratoga will last for centuries to come.”

John Hendrickson, Her Husband

“Marylou fell in love with Saratoga Springs because of the people. Thank you for giving her a wonderful life.”

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