David Joseph Whelan Sr. passed away in Williamsburg, Virginia with his family at his side on Sunday, May 1, 2022. He was 88.
David was born in Savannah, GA on April 28, 1934, the son of Lawrence Gordon Whelan Sr. and Nell Marie Whelan (née Power). He attended Blessed Sacrament School, Benedictine Military School (where he was a member of the football, baseball, basketball, and golf teams), and Clemson University (‘56) where he received a degree in Electrical Engineering. He remained devoted to his Cadets and Tigers throughout his life, proudly sporting his Clemson cap into his 80s and getting many shout-outs from fellow Country Gentlemen.
After a brief stint at General Electric, David joined the United States Air Force and served in the Pacific for four years, beginning a life-long penchant for travel that saw him pilot a sailboat with pals in the Sea of Japan, wander the Irish monastic ruins of Glendalough, and attend the Pope’s mass in Vatican City. He remained in the reserves for five years at the end of his active-duty service, discharged at the rank of Captain.
Upon his return to the States after completing active-duty, he worked for a series of aerospace engineering companies such as Litton and Teledyne, where his design of the Central Air Data Computer on the pioneering F-14 fighter jet was an especially proud career highlight.
While working at Northrop Grumman in Long Island, David met and married a girl from New Jersey and his great love for life, Patricia Ann Cook. They started their family in southern California with the birth of their daughter, Theresa. There, David and Patricia were among the earliest community volunteers for the innovative Thomas Aquinas College at its founding.
David’s work took him overseas to Germany where the young family explored the great cities of Europe and added to their ranks with the birth of their son, David Jr., prompting a return to California. After several years, they relocated to the historic coastal plains of southern Virginia, and would remain there for the rest of their lives.
David was a member of the “Silent Generation,” and he came by that label honestly, for he was largely a quiet man of great duty, great faith, and great love. But he was quick with a joke to lighten the mood and would happily regale any listener with tales of his youth and the shenanigans of his Savannah pals and the beloved family dog, Duke.
And with a little fishing, someone could pull out of him tremendous knowledge about history – especially the Civil War – and sports – with astonishing specifics about past greats in baseball, football, and golf. The latter was particularly close to his heart, and he spent a lifetime trying to tweak his swing to get it just right, including some ill-advised indoor practices.
He was proud of his family history and his Irish, Catholic, and Savannahian heritage, and was a member of the Hibernian Society and the Knights of Columbus.
Above all else, David was a devoted family man, and the greatest gift he gave to his kids was so much of his free time – teaching them to swim, sail, catch a fish, throw a ball, ride a bike, or work through some tough math. And he whiled away many summer days with them boating on the storied rivers of Virginia.
David is survived by his wife, Patricia; daughter, Theresa Marie; and son, David Joseph Jr.
Arrangements are being handled by Bucktrout Funeral Home in Williamsburg, Virginia.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 2:00 pm on Wednesday, May 11 at St. Bede’s Catholic Church followed by burial at the historic Williamsburg Memorial Park.