SEELEY LAKE ~ James Harold Whalen was born November 2, 1939 in Minneapolis to Harold and Elizabeth Whalen and brought up with his siblings Carole, Bob, and Mary (Midge) in St. Louis Park in an Irish family where Himself was in charge (when Betty allowed him).
In his youth, he stayed with his uncle near Billings when he could and worked on the ranch one summer, thus beginning his great love for the beauty and wildlife of Montana. In high school, he lettered in track and field, then briefly attended the University of Minnesota. Jimmy wanted some say in his future and felt that the United States Marine Corps offered a better class of men. He enlisted in the Reserves in April of 1962 and completed Basic Training at Parris Island. He was posted to Twenty-Nine Palms and then spent several years in the Reserves and received an honorable medical discharge. His Marine experience was brutal but he was proud to have been a Marine.
In the 1960s, his wife, Dorothy, presented him with two baby girls, Kelley, and Kathy, whom he adored.
In 1963, Jimmy went to work for Charles W. Sexton Co., where he met Dorothy, and he spent the rest of his work life in insurance. A few years after joining the Sexton Co. he resigned to go to work as a Special Agent and later Regional Sales Manager for West Bend Mutual and he retired from that firm in 1998. He painstakingly built his dream home in Seeley Lake, Montana, a town he loved to call home, and pulled up stakes at long last for Big Sky Country.
Jimmy was a voracious reader and his primary interest was WW II. This must have been due to three of his uncles having served in the Pacific. On a vacation to Hawaii in the early 1980s, Jim detoured to Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands to see the Marines’ most famous battleground. His vast reading list extended to every kind of adventure, be it war, history, or exploration.
Jimmy was raised as a hunter and shooter. In his younger days he and brother Bob accompanied their dad on hunting trips for pheasant, duck, and geese in Western Minnesota. But, as Jimmy grew older he developed an aversion to killing a living thing and by the end of the 1960s would no longer hunt. In October 2020 he and Bob spent a day at the Seeley Lake range where Bob was proud to say that he was the better shot! Jimmy enjoyed a close friendship with his brother-in-law and fellow hunter, the late Jay Wenborg, and often felt short in genial verbal sparring with Barbara Whalen, Bob’s late wife.
One cannot understand Jim’s life unless one comprehends his love for Big Sky Country. Jimmy was never happy in business — damn near hated it! — and talked longingly and endlessly about how much he wished to chuck everything and live simply in Montana. His family are so grateful that he was able to do so for more than twenty years before he died, with his children and grandchildren visiting him and making frequent trips to Glacier National Park and lengthy ATV trips over the Mission Range. They will truly miss his love and his colorful letters, photos, and emails bragging of his Montana adventures.
The family is especially grateful for the friendship and assistance provided in his later years by his rounder friends at Pops and the Chicken Coop.
Jim is survived by sister Carole Anne Wenborg, brother Robert Kieran Whalen, sister Mary Elizabeth Ramsay (Richard Ramsay), daughters Kelley Jeanne Whalen (Charles Christensen) and Kathleen Ann Kohn (Michael Kohn), grandchildren Jasper, Colin, and Maeve Whalen, and special friend Sally Williams. He was preceded in death by his parents and granddaughter Silvia.
A memorial service will be held at a later date.
Arrangements are under the care of Sunset Memorial Funeral Home and Crematory in Missoula.