Obituary: Mary Pamela Kilgore / Event planner had a strong work ethic

May 26, 1949 - July 23, 2013


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If Mary Pamela Kilgore was planning your event, you knew it was going to run smoothly.

Throughout her life, Ms. Kilgore worked as a volunteer and businesswoman to make a difference not only for women, her clients and her community, but also for folk and blues music.

She made to-do lists even in the last weeks of her life, despite dealing with complications from melanoma. She planned on making it to her son's wedding in September and kept her illness a secret from many people. She died at age 64 in her home in Upper St. Clair last Tuesday.

"She was always cheerful and hopeful," said her daughter, Sarah Sprague of Los Angeles. "She was the type of person who struck up a conversation with everyone."

People never expected her mother, who stood 4 feet, 10 inches, to "have this big a personality," Ms. Sprague said.

Born and raised in Meadville, Ms. Kilgore graduated from Meadville High School in 1967 and attended Slippery Rock University for two years.

She moved in 1969 to Erie, where she worked for Erie Insurance and married Michael James Sprague in 1972 and moved to Denver.

Raising healthy children and having a close motherly bond with them was very important to her. She wanted to support other women who wanted to do the same, so she became a La Leche League volunteer and leader until around 1985, even when her children were teenagers.

In 1982, she returned to Pittsburgh with her two children, and although she was active in the community as a Brownie leader and on the board of the Girl Scouts of Western Pennsylvania, she wanted to do more.

While juggling volunteering and being a mom, she went back to school at Chatham University in 1984 and earned a bachelor of arts in communication.

Before she graduated in 1987, she joined WYEP-FM 91.3 when the radio station was failing. She and a handful of people helped to get it back on the air in the basement at Chatham. She started out working with traffic, and by the time she left in 1998, she was the operations manager.

There, she often hosted the show "American Sampler," which offered Pittsburghers a new taste of folk, blue grass and blues -- a change from mainstream music.

Her love of this type of music carried on during her time at WYEP when she worked with Calliope House Pittsburgh Folk Music Society.

In 1997, she divorced Mr. Sprague and married Robert Kilgore in 1999 after meeting him online.

Around this time she started her own business called Kilgore Business Services, an event and meeting planner business.

For nine years, she planned the annual Tekkoshocon anime convention in Pittsburgh and is remembered for her dedication when she frequently put "her reputation on the line" for the young people of the convention.

"She treated everyone as equals," said Jim Gogal, president of Pittsburgh JCS, a nonprofit that organizes anime events. He added that despite financial problems three years ago, she landed the David Lawrence L. Convention Center as the host.

She was still working on booking the Westin Convention Center hotel for participants this year.

"We wouldn't be still running if it wasn't for her," Mr. Gogal said.

Along with her son's wedding, Ms. Kilgore will miss the annual Pittsburgh Blues Festival. For more than 15 years, she volunteered to plan it.

Ms. Kilgore continued her strong work ethic through her time as president-elect for the Pittsburgh chapter of the National Association Women Business Owners from 2011 until the end of June. There she planned events and was known as the "little general."

"If you're with a bunch of women entrepreneurs [and] if you don't have someone who is ready to be boss, you've got trouble," said JoAnn Forrester, treasurer of NAWBO, adding that the organization held a memorial in her honor on Saturday.

In addition to supporting women, Ms. Kilgore was involved with PFLAG, a nonprofit made up of parents, families, friends and allies united with the LGBT community.

She also volunteered at the South Hills Chamber of Commerce since the late 1990s until a year ago.

In addition to her love of music, Ms. Kilgore was a movie buff and took her children to the Pittsburgh Playhouse to watch revival theater movies, along with symphonies, ballets and concerts. She and her husband would go ballroom dancing.

Besides her daughter and husband, she is survived by a son, Sebastian Sprague of Philadelphia; two brothers, Lynn Richard Blanchard of Sharon and John Blanchard of Cheshire, Conn.; and a sister, Deana Blanchard of Burnsville, N.C.

A memorial service is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday in Beinhauer Mortuary, 2828 Washington Road, Peters. A service also will be held at noon.

Contributions may be made to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.

obituaries

Marina Weis: mweis@post-gazette.com.


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