Whelan Family Warmed by Polar Plunge

The Swampscott Yacht Club dedicated the 2013 Polar Plunge to the family of Dave Whelan, who died of cancer in 2012.


Tuesday's Polar Plunge was Jean Whelan's first. 

Not her last.

She'll be back to support the next New Year's Day plunge at Fisherman's Beach and the next one and the next one after that ... . 

Jean and her children, Hilary and Trevor, were the beneficiaries of the 2013 plunge, which celebrated the life of Jean's husband and Hilary and Trevor's father, Dave Whelan, a stalwart Swampscott supporter who died of cancer Sept. 1.

The past year has been difficult for the Whelans.

But they felt good to receive Tuesday's wave of warmth in the freezing cold.

Everywhere Jean looked on the beach, each time someone tapped her on the shoulder, there was another familiar family, more embraces.

Dave Whelan was a tireless advocate for Swampscott schools and an education funding warrior. He was a School Committee chairman, a town treasurer and a straight forward guy who took a stand on things that mattered to him.

Among those who took the plunge on Tuesday was former Swampscott Superintendent Matt Malone, recently appointed as the Massachusetts secretary of education.

"That was such a tribute to come and do this," Jean said.

Both Hilary and Trevor plunged into the bracing surf.

Joining them were Swampscott High School students from the swimming and dving team and the track teams.

Hilary was a member of the swim team and Trevor ran cross country and track. 

Both Hilary and Trevor are in college.

Hilary will earn her associate's degree in fashion merchandising this year at Marian Court College in Swampscott.

Trevor is a freshman at the University of Delaware.

Jean works fulltime as a legal assistant for a Boston law office.

Jean said she and her children are thankful for the support of the Swampscott Yacht Club and everyone connected to the event. An estimated 250 people received T-shirts and took the plunge, according to organizer Jill Hartmann.

Benefit proceeds went to the Whelan family.

While Jean didn't take the plunge it was fun to watch the plungers, smiling and rushing in and out of the water.

She'll return. Not to plunge, but she will be there in 2014.


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