Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Founded 1901

Royal Purple

A mother’s instinct: The Mary Kilar story

Determination is a word that can be thrown around and overused at times.

It’s a word that may not mean much to most people.

Don’t tell that to Mary Kilar though, as determination has much more than little meaning to her.

Determination is what helped her become a two-time All-American volleyball player at UW-Whitewater.

It’s what helped her get through troubling times as a single mother out of college.

It’s what she preaches to her Whitewater High School volleyball players, whom she coaches as an assistant on the girl’s varsity team.

It’s what helped her battle through the depressing times of losing a six-year-old child.

Essentially, it is one word that has made her who she is today, a 39-year-old mother of four children – Brittany, 18; Rosie, 17; Kindyl, 5; and of course, Treyton, who was six when he passed away after an alcohol-related crash.

Growing up

Mary, the youngest of three siblings, grew up in Milwaukee. She credited her two older brothers and her father for the competitiveness that made her the athlete she became.

“[We have a] very competitive family,” Mary said. “My brothers are probably the sole reason I went into athletics and really enjoyed that.”

Mary said she likes to use the lessons she learned from her upbringing to pass on to her current children.

“I had a great upbringing,” Mary said. “We were a family of faith and we also enjoyed sports and camping together, all the kinds of things that I’ve provided for my own children. You kind of provide what you lived.”

The lesson of participating in sports was obviously passed on to Treyton, who was a huge baseball and Milwaukee Brewers fan at only age six. Rosie also plays volleyball, basketball and softball and Brittany plays softball at Whitewater High School, and the family plans several other recreational activities and vacations outside of sports.

Kilar, the current principal of St. John Baptist School in Jefferson, wanted to be an educator as she grew up. She said she always played the teacher at home and that kids were always part of her life.

“The biggest value that my parents ever taught us was about family – how strong you need to be in your family and always take care of your family,” Mary said.

In fact, her two oldest daughters were her brother’s children until she stepped in to help them, determined to provide them with a better life.

“When their mom was unable to care for them, it was a no-brainer to step in and take care of them,” Mary said.


After attending St. Mary’s Academy in Milwaukee, Mary decided to attend UW-Whitewater after visiting and talking to a lot of different schools about playing sports in college.

The combination of being able to stay close to home to allow her parents to continue to watch her play and the determination and opportunity to play both volleyball and basketball were the main reasons she landed at UW-Whitewater.

“UW-Whitewater was probably one of the best decisions that I ever made to come here,” Mary said. “I had great coaches, I had great friends. I ended up taking the girls right away the year after I graduated and was still living with roommates at the time.

“Those friends, that were my friends in college, opened their doors as well to have the girls come into our home until I could secure a single home for us.”

Mary said she could not remember any bad experiences at UW-Whitewater.

“I look back at my time at UW-Whitewater with such fond memories of how I grew, my education, and obviously my sports,” she added.

Mary, who was inducted into the UW-Whitewater athletic Hall of Fame in 2009, was a two-time All-American volleyball player in the early 1990s. In 1992, she was named a second team All-American as well as an All-American Strength and Conditioning Athlete in 1992. In 1993, she was named a first team All-American.

When asked about how she was able to become such a great athlete, Kilar responded that it was “truly dedication,” which she preaches to her current athletes at Whitewater High School.

“It’s mostly the idea of hard work, determination, focus, all of those things …  but then really putting it into action, not just saying it,” Mary said. “I think for me it was always setting my goals, knowing I wanted to achieve them and really, truly wanting to be the best at anything I took on.”

A balancing act

Balancing two sports with academics and a social life is close to impossible, but a determined Mary was able to battle through it.

“My life was always filled with sports and I think when an athlete who is always engaged in something doesn’t have that ‘something’, sometimes life kind of falls apart for you,” Mary said. “I think I do better when I have more things to do in my life than [fewer] things.”

Mary credited dedication and determination for her all-around success in sports and school.

Immediately after graduating, Mary started taking over as the mother-figure in her two oldest daughters’ lives. She said many people would ask her “how did you ever do that at that age?”

“I say to people in response to that, ‘You would do the same,’” Mary said. “Any good person who looks at their family in need would do exactly the same, so you just make it work.”

The adoption

Mary took over for the girls while she was still living with roommates. Brittany, who was four at the time of adoption, said Kilar adopting her and Rosie (who was three at the time of adoption), was truly a blessing.

“I was in probably three or four foster homes before I got fully adopted,” Brittany said. “Ever since she adopted me at age four, I’ve been given so many opportunities that I don’t think I would have had if I was still in foster homes. I probably would still be going from foster home to foster home and I’m just truly grateful to have my ‘mom’ here with me to support me in everything that I do.”

Staying in Whitewater

While attending school at UW-Whitewater, Mary said she never thought she would live in a smaller town for the rest of her life. She had wanted to work in the inner-city with people who needed her.

That was until she adopted Brittany and Rosie.

“The minute I got the girls, I realized what a small community does for you, especially as a single parent,” Mary said. “The small town communities, they know each other, they are there for each other, they’re willing to give a carpool ride, they’re willing to help you out if you need something.”

Those small-town qualities, as well as the Parks and Recreation Department and the schools, among other things, kept Mary from moving elsewhere.

“I couldn’t have done it alone,” she added. “Being in the small community gave me the support I needed as a single mom of two girls.”

Her decision to stay in Whitewater was the reason she met her current husband, Mike Kilar. Mary met Mike, 45, during pickup volleyball games at the armory near downtown. Mary said it was a place where the girls could play and she could play as well.

“We kind of started becoming friends, talking, and shared the same interests in sports,” Mary said. “He owned a house here in Whitewater, then we started dating and we married in 2001.”

When Mike proposed to Mary, he not only proposed with a ring for his future wife, but also for the two girls.

“He presented them both with rings when he gave me mine to let them know that they were a part of this family and nothing would ever change for them, that he was joining us versus them not being part of that,” Mary said.

After marrying, Treyton was born in 2003 and Kindyl was born in 2005.

“That kind of completed our family with four kids,” Mary said.

Treyton passing away

Before Treyton passed away, Mary said everything was done as a family.

“When we did vacations, it wasn’t just my husband and I; it was ‘what can we do with the kids and what kind of vacation can we take?’” Mary said.

Now, it’s a little bit different. With Treyton no longer part of the family in physical form, Mary said the hardest part is getting through the realization that his passing is permanent.

“It’s not going to change and so we as a family have to pull together and figure out how we cope with that.  One of the biggest things my husband and I talk about is that we will keep his memory alive, we will continue to talk about Treyton,” Mary said.

The reason they will continue to talk about Treyton is because of the joy and activity he brought to the family.

“You could not sit down, Treyton wanted to throw the ball or play catch or play baseball,” Mary said. “Our life was active, and he just brought us so much joy and laughter, as all my kids do. Since his death, life changes for you. I remember after his death thinking I’ll never be able to take a family picture again because it’s not my whole family.”

As many know, the Kilars are fundraising to build a little-league baseball field in remembrance of Treyton. After losing out on a $250,000 Pepsi Refresh grant last January, the Kilars have been accepted for another running at a $50,000 Pepsi Refresh grant, and Mary said this time she is determined to get it.

The Future

As many look forward to future events and happenings, Mary said the death of a child has taught her one thing.

“I don’t plan out my future anymore; I just have to get through today because there’s a lot of sadness there,” Mary said. “When I look at events that are supposed to be pure joy, that I would’ve looked at as pure joy before Treyton’s death, I now think about the fact that he’s not here.”

However, Mary admitted that she is definitely looking forward to “Treyton Kilar’s Field of Dreams” being built, although it may be bittersweet. Groundbreaking is hoped to begin in spring.

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Founded 1901
A mother’s instinct: The Mary Kilar story