Mr. Robert P. "Bob" Whalen, 87, of 16 Farmer St., Canton, and 1118 Racquette River Rd., Parishville, passed away very unexpectedly in a snowmobile accident on Monday night March 4, 2013. Arrangements are with the O'Leary and Lawrence Funeral Homes in Canton.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Saturday, March 9, 2013 at 10 a.m. at St. Patrick's Church in Colton with Rev. Douglas Lucia and Rev. Raymond Moreau co-officiating. Friends may call at the O'Leary Funeral Home in Canton Friday afternoon between 1:00 and 3:00 p.m. or in the evening from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Mr. Whalen was born in Canton, on October 25, 1925 to Charles and Fleeta (Powers) Whalen in the home he grew up in at 38 Park Street. He had a deep-rooted love of the outdoors that began when he was young and endured throughout his whole life. His family spent summers at Sylvia Lake near Fowler, NY where he learned to swim, sail, water-ski and surfboard. He loved to deer hunt and downhill ski and was an avid reader. He loved flowers and gardening and later in life enjoyed sharing with and teaching his children all the things he loved.
As a boy he was active in scouting and in 1941 he was awarded the honor of Eagle Scout. When snowmobiling was invented in the 1960's he embraced it immediately and purchased one of the early Bombardier snow sleds. He wasted no time sharing his new found hobby with everyone in the neighborhood and anyone else who was interested. Later he became a fan of four-wheeling and enjoyed many hours on the trails with friends. Later in life he lived on Rainbow Reservoir in Parishville to be on the water and close to the trails.
At the age of seventeen Bob enlisted in the United States Navy. He trained in NTSCH Navy Technical School (EM) Electrical Machines at Purdue University in Lafayette, Indiana before serving his country for twenty months in the South Pacific during World War II. He served in the Pacific Theater on board LCI (L) 626 as one of a crew of twenty two young men, in one of the first flotillas to make the trip all the way from Solomons, Maryland through the Panama Canal to the South Pacific. He was honorably discharged on May 15, 1946 as a US Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Electrician's Mate.
He returned home to finish high school and then go on to earn a degree in Electrical Engineering from Canton ATI in 1949. It was there that he met two men destined to become lifelong friends, Dick Miller and Peter Nevaldine and eventually Peter's wife Carolyn and their three daughters.
On August 1, 1950 at 10:00 a.m. at St. Mary's Church in Canton he married the love of his life, Elizabeth M. White. He had told her in high school before he left for the Navy that he would be back to marry her and always true to his word, he did! His sister, Mary Jo, and his best friends from childhood to this day, Harold Wilder and Fred Wilder, were by his side. Together Bob and Betty raised six children while building their business and working hard in the community.
Mr. Whalen was a member of the Lions Club all his life and both he and Mrs. Whalen spent many hours working on Lions Club fund raisers, especially the popular Minstrel Shows in the 1950's. They were active in the American Legion and supporters of the drive to build the E.J. Noble Hospital in Canton where their first daughter was the second baby born there after its completion.
They were faithful communicants of St. Mary's Church and supporters of St. Mary's School. He was a charter member of the Grasse River Investment Club. Mr. Whalen joined the Middle Branch of the Stillwater Club in 1955 when his father Charles was still an active member there. He remained a loyal member of the Stillwater Club, being their oldest and longest member. Later in life he joined the Weller Mountain Club and there found a wealth of wonderful new friends and the camaraderie of many men and women with similar interests.
In 1955, after working at Witherbee & Whalen for several years, Mr. Whalen and his partner William D. Stalder purchased the memorial and burial vault business operated and owned by his father, Charles J. Whalen, and Carl Witherbee since 1917. Together Mr. Whalen and Mr. Stalder built and expanded Witherbee & Whalen, adding concrete septic tanks to its precast products. They joined the licensed network of the national burial vault company now known as Wilbert Funeral Services, Inc. Mr. Whalen was a firm believer in the Wilbert company and served many years on the Wilbert Manufacturing Association Board as a representative of his District's Licensee Network and then later for ten years on the Wilbert, Inc. Board of Directors in Chicago. He was recognized for his astute business and financial acumen by all who had the good fortune to serve with him during those years. Mr. Whalen's partner retired in 1991 but he stayed on actively working in the business and serving as President of the Board of Directors encompassing a career of nearly 65 years of dedication to a work he loved.
Mr. Whalen also served twenty seven years on the Board of Directors of the Canton Savings and Loan which during his tenure on the Board saw the bank grow into the Canton Federal Savings & Loan and its current entity as North Country Savings Bank. First appointed to the Board in 1969 he served faithfully until his last official meeting on January 16, 1996 being the Annual Meeting which he presided over as Chairman of the Board. He continued on as an Emeritus Director until June 22, 2004. He enjoyed his many years on the Board and enduring friendships with Walt Leonard, Jack Merrill and their wives and later Dave Swanson as well as many others.
Mr. Whalen was a man who had friends and kept them close and cared for over the years. He kept his lifelong friends and effortlessly added new ones along the way. Sixty two years of coffee, twice a day, five days a week from Ralph's to the Cascade, cements relationships not only with lifelong friends like the Wilders, Frank White and Otis Van Horne but others who have joined the coffee group over the years. His insatiable curiosity for life and even temper fostered steadfast friendships with the newer crowd that frequents the Cascade - Bill and Al Locy, Brian Staples, Ted Lawrence, Richard Grayson, Rick Glidden, and the newest member of the coffee group Rust Eddy whom he recently had the pleasure to introduce to the joys of snowmobiling in the North Country.
Bob Whalen loved life and loved people. He was a man of enormous integrity and character but perhaps the true measure of his life was the limitless love he had for his family. He is survived by one sister, Mary J. Whalen (Canton); six children, including daughter Catherine and Joe Siematkowski (Potsdam), daughter Joanne and Bruce Shick (St. Leonard, Maryland), son Donald and Joanne Whalen (Rochester), son Michael (Waddington), daughter Roberta and Jim Yaeger (Canton) and daughter Julie and Brad Catling (West Stockholm); nine beloved grandchildren including grandson Nathaniel and wife Anne Shick, Amanda Shick, Elizabeth, Ike and Molly Siematkowski, Rachael and Jacob Yaeger, Brenna Whalen and Meghan Catling; and three cherished great-grandchildren, Ryder Cole, Maewyn and Arleigh Shick. All will sorely miss his loving presence in their lives.