In Memory of Dave Whelan: Family Man, Friend and Swampscott Advocate

Swampscott's Dave Whelan died this morning, Saturday, Sept. 1. He was a tireless advocate for the town, in general, and education, in particular.


Good friends of Dave Whelan say it was not just his family and them but the whole town that was dealt a huge loss this morning when Dave died after a battle with cancer.

Rick Bessom knew Dave since kindergarten. They went to Clarke School, played Pop Warner football and for Big Blue, graduating Swampscott High in 1975.

Later, following college, they shared an apartment in town and, after each of them got married, they remained close.

"I lost a good friend," Rick said. "Dave was top notch. He loved his family. He loved the town. He was committed to bettering education for generations to come — and incredibly unselfish, having donated so much of his time."

Swampscott Recreation Director Danielle Strauss said Dave was a dedicated friend who loved his family more than anything. Dave leaves behind his wife, Jean, and two children, Trevor and Hilary, both of whom are attending college. 

The Whelans and Strauss families would camp at Lost River, Meredith and other New Hampshire locations, swimming, canoeing, hiking and otherwise roughing it.

Danielle said Dave later confessed that he wasn't one for camping but went along with it, taking one for the team, the family, because they enjoyed it.

The director recounted Dave's considerable service for the larger team, the town, over the years.

He was town treasurer, a School Committee member, a member of the Republican Town Committee, on the board at Marian Court College, on the Recreation Commission, Swampscott Youth Soccer Association, the Abbott Park Playground Committee, the Phillips Park Study Committee and a Town Meeting member.

Dave spearheaded the effort to see Swampscott schools funded at the amount promised by state officials but

He wrote editorials, met with state officials and politicians, attended hearings, organized community groups and supported a legal challenge to the funding mechanism.

From Dave, many Swampscott people took their cue, advocating for change after witnessing , energy and commitment to the problem.

Good friend Kelly Cunningham said Dave had keen interests in sports, especially the Red Sox, and in politics.

He was a man of integrity who would not be cowed.

He was passionate about the town and worked on its behalf.

"He was one of the best people I have ever known in my life," he said. "It's such a loss for the town."

Dave was no stranger to loss, said Rick Bessom. Dave lost his father as a young child and his mother after graduating high school.

He went on to graduate from Merrimack College and became an accountant, a family man and involved himself in the life of the town.

Some of Rick's memories of Dave hearken back to the football field. As a child he was pudgy, a pulling guard on the Pop Warner team, but later slimmed down and became a safety on the high school team.

They played on opposite sides of the ball on the high school team, Rick at running back and Dave at safety.

Rick said he could never get by Dave. He was a dogged defender and always dragged him down.

The town will miss Dave's presence, his involvement, his diligence and his persistence.

Patch will post visiting hours and funeral information as it becomes available.


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Nicholas Ricciardelli September 02, 2012 at 03:11 PM
To a person who I always admired and hearing the words from friends, colleagues and neighbors it's not a surprise that you were a person that took care of his family and friends....but the town you loved. It's now time for god to take care of you. May you rest in peace and God bless your family as they go through this tough time. May God bless you.
William R. DiMento September 02, 2012 at 05:02 PM
Kelly Cunningham described Dave as "a man of integrity who would not be cowed" Those of us who knew Dave as a friend know exactly what Kelly means.We thank him for living such a life of quality
Mary DeChillo September 02, 2012 at 05:32 PM
Dave's sharp sense of wit, including the self-deprecating variety, delivered with a straight face, is what will linger on as he passes. He had a sense of how important family is--as I was entering the church at my mother's funeral mass in Maine, there he and Kelly Cunningham were--having driven all that way to pay respects and be of support. He knew what it was to be a friend in ways few know. I will miss him terribly. May God's love shine on Jean, Trevor and Hiliary and his other family members.
Kevin Donaher September 03, 2012 at 11:46 AM
I will always remember Dave for his incredible devotion to making the town a better place for all. Dave always had the best interests of the town at heart and never hestitated to stand up and take action to make things better. I learned so much from Dave in the time I was fortuate enough to know him and will miss his words of advice and wisdom. He was truly a wonderful, kind, and great man. My sincere condolences to his family and close friends.
Thomas Mills September 04, 2012 at 03:42 PM
Dave was a wonderful friend and powerful advocate for not only his community, but the entire Commonwealth. His humor as and assistance we worked on Chapter 70 reform will be deeply missed. My deepest condolences to his family. -Thomas Mills Office of Rep. Ehrlich


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