BIDDEFORD — Anything Rebecca Witham did, she put her heart and soul into it.

Back in 2002, after much encouragement from her hairdresser, she entered the Mrs. Maine pageant.

She made her decision only about three months before the event. “She didn’t have much time to prepare,” said her sister Lee Duranceau, “but she’s very comfortable on stage, and beautiful.”

Her composure throughout the evening gown, swimsuit and interview portions of the pageant “came across as genuine,” Duranceau remembers.

“She won. She was just shocked,” her sister said.

After claiming the title as Mrs. Maine 2002, she continued dedicating time to Maine pageants. “She did a beautiful job representing the state,” said Duranceau, whose sister went by the mantra, “Do it right or not do it at all.”

Mrs. Witham died Monday at the age of 46.

She was raised in Scarborough, and music and performance were always a part of her life. While she was in high school, she was a member of the musical group TLC, said her friend Tina Allen.

The group traveled throughout the state, meeting up and collaborating with other musical groups. “That was something she was very proud of,” Allen said.

She attended the University of Southern Maine, earning her degree in finance, Allen said. Throughout college, Mrs. Witham worked at the Kerryman Pub in Saco to pay her way through school.

While her career was in banking, she kept busy with, and passionate about, many other things. Mrs. Witham was on the board of directors for City Theatre in Biddeford and frequented the stage, performing in many casts.

Her performances included “Chicago,” “Guys and Dolls,” “Gypsy,” “Teahouse of the August Moon” and “Working.” Allen remembers performing with her in “The Rocky Horror Show” as well.

“She had really good roles,” her friend said.

In a review of the 1997 performance of “Chicago,” Mrs. Witham was described as “the backbone of the show, doubling as everything from Roxie’s fellow prisoners to men in her life.”

If she wasn’t on stage, it was most likely because she was behind the scenes or ushering audience members.

“She volunteered a lot of her time at the City Theatre. Whatever they needed, she would do,” Duranceau said.

Her sister described Mrs. Witham as having a “big personality.”

She remembers a cruise they took to Italy and Greece in 2008. Mrs. Witham had just had a round of chemotherapy for ovarian cancer and had lost her hair.

One night on the trip, when they returned to their rooms from the casino on board the ship, she whipped off her wig and hung it off the balcony.

“I said, ‘What if it blows away?’ ” Duranceau said. “What are you going to do?’ ” Mrs. Witham responded, “Maybe some guy will get it on his head and think he grew hair.”

“She had a great sense of humor,” her sister said.

“She had a very contagious laugh. Everyone will remember that,” Allen said.

Mrs. Witham also was able to talk with her sister on more serious level, about dying. She really loved the beach and the ocean, Duranceau said, and she said, “Whenever you want to be with me, just go to the beach. Just go there and I’ll always be with you.”

 

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

[email protected]