Colette M Witherspoon

November 20th, 1935 to February 22nd, 2024

Colette Marie Witherspoon, 88, of Port Huron, a remarkable woman who swapped classroom teaching for scuba diving in her second career, passed away peacefully on Thursday, February 22, 2024 following a full and passionate life.

Colette was a loving sister, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. She is survived by her sister, Sue Ann Robert; her three children, Kimberly (Paul) Shonk, Jeanne Witherspoon (Bruce Mumford), and Russell (Julie) Witherspoon; her six grandchildren, Thomas John “TJ” (Ally) Witherspoon, Chelsea (Isaac) Gilpin, Jonathan Pearl, Kathryn Claire “KC” Shonk, Samantha Pearl, and Dana Witherspoon; and her three great-grandchildren, Vera Witherspoon, Arly Witherspoon, and Silvia Gilpin.

Colette was born in 1935 in Detroit to the late Dr. Edwin H. and Kathryn M. Fenton. She attended Redford High School, obtained a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University, and a Master’s in Education from Eastern Michigan University, but always yielded to strong familial ties to the University of Michigan. Colette spent the first 25 plus years of her career in the public-school systems, working throughout St. Clair County in speech therapy, special education, education administration, and long-term treatment at the Juvenile Detention Center.

While Colette was an accomplished educator, she was equally passionate about her summers off, where she spent most of her time in and around the water living in Algonac with her then-husband and her three children. Her main hobby at that time was supporting her children’s interests along with the occasional knitting, sewing, cooking, reading, swimming, boating and sunbathing on the deck of the boat (while holding a fishing pole for someone else to reel-in should it be entertained by a fish).

After retiring from education, Colette found her calling under the water. In 1981, she added a new hobby, scuba diving, which was the beginning of what became her second career. While she was helping instructor Don Evans with the local YMCA Scuba classes, Colette was invited to join the St Clair County Sheriff Dive Team. Colette thrived on the training and soon became an Advanced Open Water Diver, and was certified in Search & Rescue, Ice Diving, River Diving and many more specialties. In 1985, Colette became a PADI Scuba Instructor and then a Master Scuba Diver Trainer. By 1987, Colette was working for Commercial Diving & Marine Services in Marysville as a Diver/Tender. Soon she had a Class A CDL to drive the heavy equipment, a 25-ton rating on her USCG Masters License and was licensed as an EMT. Perhaps it was during this developmental period that she became “Grambo” in the eyes of her grandchildren who have adopted that title for her in place of the less likely multitude of “granny” scenarios.

As a union member of Local 687 Carpenter/Piledrivers, she had the Association of Diving Contractors Rating of an Air/Diving Supervisor. During the boating season, Colette served several years as an Officer for the St Clair County Sheriff Marine Patrol. Colette was often the first or only woman in these roles. The work was physically demanding, often risky, always messy, and she loved it.

In 1986 and 1987, respectively, she participated in the discovery of two shipwrecks in Lake Huron, namely, the SS Regina, which sank in Lake Huron in 1913, and the tugboat Sport, which sank in 1920. Artifacts from the SS Regina can be found in the Port Huron Museum where she was a volunteer staff member. In 1992, Governor Engler appointed Colette to the State’s Underwater Salvage and Preserve Committee where she served several terms.

Colette’s fascination with the world beneath the water was not limited to her work-she took the opportunity to appreciate the finer fish in life as well. Colette was an avid international recreational diver, taking time to travel and dive in numerous exotic locations, including Aruba, Bonaire, Belize, Cayman Islands, Maldives, Tahiti, Yap & Palau, Virgin Islands and Africa, as well as conducting open-water adventures with her grandchildren in a cenote in Mexico. Colette’s passion was shared with two of her children and four of her grandchildren, all of whom she certified as PADI divers.

In recent years, as Colette transitioned to a primarily above-water life, she adopted a dog, which she named Gobie after the invasive Goby fish (Gobies) found in the Great Lakes. It was a fitting name, as he is a small dog in a large dog family-an invasive species. Gobie was Colette’s companion to the end.

In her heart and mind, Colette never really left the water, and her sense of humor never left her. In her final days in the hospital, when a doctor asked which arm he was touching, she responded “starboard” (the right side of a boat), and she flung up the other arm and called out “port.” The doctor was confused, but her children smiled with warm satisfaction. She nailed it.

A memorial visitation will be held from 12-3 p.m. on Sunday, March 3, 2024 at Karrer-Simpson Funeral Home in Port Huron. All are welcome to attend the family led service at 3 p.m. followed by a luncheon at 4 p.m. at Freighters Eatery and Taproom.

Colette’s family prefers memorial contributions be made to the Dive Team Auxiliary or the Port Huron Power Squadron, which promotes safe boating in the Blue Water Area. To send condolences, visit

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