John Whalen, a man of great empathy, intelligence, and fierce will, died May 19, 2023 at Fairfield County Hospice of complications from Type I diabetes, which he managed with heroic discipline and grace for more than 60 years. Born on August 23, 1942, he had deep New York Irish roots, and was raised in Philipse Manor in North Tarrytown, New York.
He graduated from Archbishop Stepinac High School, St. Anselm College, and the University of New Hampshire. He married his high school sweetheart, Susan Whalen (Weeks) and they were devoted to each other for over 61 years.
In keeping with his Catholic faith, he dedicated his professional career to service to others. He was an educator with Greenwich Public Schools, including positions at Western Junior High School, and for many years, Greenwich High School, where he was the Director of Guidance.
He helped countless students navigate the challenges of teen years and gave voice to those who felt invisible. For those who didn’t feel they were seen, he offered encouragement, and made certain that every student was treated with dignity. He was instrumental in advocating for the fifth house, Cantor House, at Greenwich High School and he helped initiate the Greenwich High School Senior Internship Program which became a model for other school systems. In recognition of his exemplary work, he received the Greenwich Public Schools Distinguished Teacher Award in 2002.
John believed in civic responsibility and served on many community organizations and boards dedicated to addressing mental health challenges for students and their families. A longtime member of the Cos Cob community, he represented Cos Cob on the RTM for several terms and was active on the Greenwich Democratic Town Committee.
John lived his life with compassion, integrity, and humility. He had the unique ability to sense when others needed comfort or guidance, and to provide just the right words of wisdom, usually leavened with humor, at just the right moment. He remains a role model and inspiration and will be greatly missed.
He was devoted to his family. In addition to his wife, Susan, he leaves behind two beloved daughters, Gwyneth Whalen of Boulder Colorado and Megan Whalen Fernandez of Park City, Utah; his sons-in-law, Michael Cronley and Leroy Fernandez; and four cherished grandchildren, Isabelle Fernandez, Portia Fernandez, Henry Cronley and Grace Cronley. He also adored his spaniels, Molly, Katie, and Emmy.
John is survived by five sisters, and three brothers. He is especially grateful for his sister Suzanne’s presence in his life, as well as his dear friend, Brenda Friedler. He was predeceased by his brother, Xavier Whalen.
The family wishes to thank Dr. Liu and Dr. Edelman for their expertise and astounding kindness. The family also expresses their deep gratitude to Karen McHawley and their Field Road friends and neighbors.
Funeral services will be held at St. Mary Church, 178 Greenwich Avenue, Greenwich, CT on May 25, 2023 at 10:00am.
In lieu of flowers, the family would greatly appreciate donations to the Greenwich Scholarship Association, GSA, POB 4627, Greenwich, CT 06831 (greenwichscholarship.org).