Dr. Dana Merrill Whitten, 81, died Jan. 19, 2021, after a short illness. He served the children and parents of Waldo County for over 40 years as a pediatrician, a calm and steady voice in times of need, and a source of comfort. He was an athlete, a passionate sailor and gardener who loved to read, and a pillar of his community. He will be greatly missed.

Born Oct. 28, 1939, in Amesbury, Mass., Dana was the son of Dr. James Francis Whitten and Ernestine Merrill Whitten. Both parents were from Maine, his father from Farmington and his mother from Machias. Dana’s father served in the Army Medical Corps in North Africa during World War II and returned from the war to serve the people of Amesbury as a physician.

Growing up in Amesbury, Dana sailed boats on the Merrimack River and cruised the Maine coast with his parents and younger sister, Chrisjean. He attended Phillips Exeter Academy, where he was a celebrated rower, and then Harvard University, where he was a member of the Harvard heavyweight eight that went to the Olympic trials in 1960.

Dr. Whitten received his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania Medical School and then did residency training in pediatric hematology and oncology at the Boston Floating Hospital at Tufts Medical Center. Dr. Whitten was stationed in Tacoma, Wash., where he was an officer in the Army Medical Corps.

He married Diane Louise Knight July 15, 1972, in Exeter, N.H., and in 1976 they moved to Northport with their daughter, Beth (aged 3), seeking a more rural lifestyle. Once there they established the only pediatric practice in Waldo County, with nurse Diane as a pediatric assistant. The practice eventually expanded to serve much of the Midcoast and is still in operation today.

Dana fell in love with the patient-doctor relationship that existed in his Midcoast community and demonstrated an extreme devotion and love for his patients that is unique today. He was just as likely to be found diagnosing things over shopping carts at the supermarket as he was during the daily 7:30 a.m. call hour he established and maintained for 40 years (weekends included). Medicine and pediatrics were more than a job or a skill for him — they were a true vocation, to which he dedicated his heart and soul.

He was a superb diagnostician, not only for typical childhood ailments, but also for rare and dangerous ones: Crohn’s disease, meningitis and leukemia, as well as ruptured spleens and acute appendicitis.

Dana had a kind and cheerful face and manner that were reassuring to children and parents alike. Diane was his assistant at work and eventually his colleague as a pediatric nurse practitioner. She was the center of his universe.

He had a variety of other passions, including sailing and vegetable gardening. From his home perched high on a hill in Northport, with Penobscot Bay laid out like a map in the background, he planted and tended an immense garden with three kinds of every vegetable. When most people were mired in dark, cold February, Dana could be found cheerfully perusing his seed catalogues, looking for new varieties of beans and tomatoes to plant and readying his cold frame for the next growing season. He was fiercely competitive in raising peas and took enormous pride in having the first batch ready to eat with salmon on the Fourth of July.

Dana was a lifelong sailor, racing in his younger days and transitioning to become a dedicated cruiser as an adult. On his time off he was often found aboard his sloop, Night Heron, exploring the islands, coves and beaches of coastal Maine from Penobscot Bay to Deer Isle and Isle au Haut, Blue Hill Bay and Frenchman’s Bay with Diane and his daughter, Beth. They gloried in the mud of the clam flats and ate gourmet meals prepared in the tiny ship’s galley by Diane. On Wednesdays he could be found as Diane’s sternman as she lobstered off Saturday Cove and Islesboro.

Given his athletic background, it is not surprising Dana loved sports. He took enormous pride in the fact that his daughter followed him as a decorated rower at Exeter. He was omnipresent on the sidelines for Belfast High football games (as the team physician) and in the stands for Bluefish swim meets cheering on his daughter and later his grandchildren. He loved his Boston Red Sox and New England Patriots and gloried in their successes. He was a superb curler for many years.

Dana was an omnivorous and insatiable reader of history and good spy novels. And there was always classical music playing in the background.

He loved to travel, especially in the long, cold Maine winters. After sailing and exploring the Caribbean, he and Diane found a spot on a hillside in Vieques, Puerto Rico, where they built a beautiful home and retreat.

Dana’s whole life revolved around Diane and his daughter, Beth, and he was deeply affected by Diane’s premature death in 2011. He continued to devote himself to the care of children and his pediatric practice until his retirement in 2018.

Dana is survived by his sister, Chrisjean Tiberti; his daughter, Beth Tove Whitten; her three children, Cameron, Ellio, and Dana Merrill (having a grandchild named after him was a huge source of pride for him); his mother-in-law, Dolores Knight; in-laws Maryann Knight-Ekberg, James Knight and Timothy Knight; many nieces and nephews; two children from a previous marriage, Amanda Whitten and Christopher Whitten; grandson Daniel; and his entire, loving Midcoast Maine community.

A service is being planned and will be announced at a later date this year.

Arrangements are with Riposta Funeral Home. Memories and condolences may be shared with the family at ripostafh.com.