February 25, 2020

Harry Whelan

Died March 29, 2019


Harry Whelan, 87, met his Creator with dignity Friday, March 29, in the home he designed and built in Forest Lake in the care of his wife and many of his children, as well as Compassus, a hospice in West Branch.

He was born in Detroit to his Irish immigrant father, Henry, and Finnish mother, Hulda Esther Ruokanen of Calumet.

The oldest of six children, he is survived by his wife Gail; his sister, Kathy (Dave) Peddle of Auburn Hills; his sister-in-law, Mary Lou of Corunna; nine of his 10 children and their spouses, Kathy, William, Joseph (Melissa), Ann (Ron) Barnette, Patricia (Brian) Bickle, Daniel (Maggie), Matthew (Lisa), James (Maureen), Theresa (Kris) Arocha; 17 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren; as well as his large stepfamily.

He was predeceased by his first wife, Christine; and his son, Michael (Laurie).

Harry served in the Army as an MP in Tokyo during the Korean Conflict. He married his first love, Christine Reardon, while home on furlough in 1952, and raised the first of five children in California and the last five in Milford.

He met Gail in midlife after wrestling with his demons and coming to a spiritually fulfilling sobriety. She shared his multifaceted interests on the same path for many years before their marriage in 2007, when he became stepfather and grandpa to her family.

Harry loved being outside, hiking, camping, sailing and golf. He was an Irish tenor and had phenomenal know-how for designing and building homes, as well as inventing a plethora of wooden structures, large and small, including a 25-foot-high teepee.

His imposing figure, sharp wit and unending puns, his wisdom and protective presence will be missed by all who knew him.

Donations in his name may be sent to Compassus.


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