The Honourable Eugene Francis Whelan, P.C., O.C., LL.D, P.Ag.
It is with great sadness that the family of the Honourable Eugene Whelan announces that he passed away peacefully at his home in Amherstburg, Ontario at 88 years of age on February 19, 2013.
Gene will be sadly missed by his wife of 53 years Elizabeth (Pollinger), and his three daughters, Terry and husband Joe Dupont, Susan Whelan, Cathy and husband Brian Molloy; his granddaughter Katie Dupont; and his step-granddaughters Stephanie, Samantha and Shelby Molloy, extended family and many friends.
Eugene Whelan was born on July 11, 1924 in Anderdon Township, Ontario the son of Charles B. Whelan and Frances L. Kelly, and was the last surviving of nine children. He was educated in Anderdon Township, Amherstburg and Walkerville, Ontario. Survived by his aunts Helen Wrynn, Blanche Kelly also his brother and sister-in-law’s Lena (late Peter) Uzun, Adolf (late Barbara) Hoffman, Martin (Judi) Pollinger.
Gene, fondly known as “The Senator” to many, was a proud Canadian, deeply devoted to his country and fellow citizens. He served on the local Separate School Board at the age of 21, moved on to Township Council and the Essex County road committee in the 1950s, was Reeve of Anderdon Township and was elected as Warden of Essex County in 1962. He also held a number of positions including Director and President of the Harrow Farmers Co-op, Director of the United Co-operatives of Ontario, the Co-operators Insurance Co. and the Ontario Winter Wheat Producers Marketing Board. He was also President of the Essex County branch, and Board Member of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture.
He was first elected to the House of Commons in 1962 as a member of the Liberal Party and re-elected in all subsequent federal elections until 1984 when he retired. In 1972 he was appointed federal Minister of Agriculture, a position he held until 1984 except for a brief hiatus in 1979. As Minister he was instrumental in the creation of numerous programs in support of the growth of primary production and agribusiness in Canada, and especially supply management. In addition to his work for Canadians, Eugene was active internationally through the World Food Program, was President of the World Food Council, and led the Canadian Delegations to the United Nations Pledging Conference in New York for five years. He hosted important international conferences in Canada and represented the Canadian government on numerous bi-lateral missions around the world. He led the way to normalization of relations with China by taking a delegation on agricultural cooperation there. As Minister of Agriculture he visited the U.S.S.R. on agricultural exchange missions and understood the problems facing that society. When Mikhail Gorbachev, who later became the President of the new Soviet Union, came to Canada on a Minister-to-Minister visit, Gene was able to proudly show him the many advantages for
a nation in providing incentive for productivity. Not so long after, Russia changed fundamentally and the Wall came down.
Eugene’s career in public service has been acknowledged in many ways. In 1976 he became an Honourary Colonel of the 21st (Windsor) Service Battalion and upon his retirement from that position he was awarded the Canadian Forces Decoration for his dedicated service. In 1983 he received an Honourary Doctorate of Law degree from the University of Windsor in recognition of his valuable contributions as a public servant. The Ontario Institute of Agrologists and the Agricultural Institute of Canada conferred their Honourary Life Memberships on Senator Whelan for his commitment, leadership and contributions to agriculture on a national and international level. He received the prestigious Freedom Award in 1986 from The Windsor/Detroit International Freedom Festival for his outstanding contributions to the cause of freedom and peace and was also the recipient of the Queen’s Jubilee Medal. Senator Whelan was inducted into the Canadian, Ontario and Essex County Agriculture Halls of Fame. Senator Whelan, “The Great Canadian Farmer,” was made an officer of the Order of Canada in 1987.
Gene was summoned to serve in the Canadian Senate in 1996. He was an active Senator and served as Deputy-Chair of the Agriculture and Forestry Committee. He was a member of several Senate committees and sub-committees until his retirement from the Senate in 1999.
Among Gene’s many accomplishments, some of those of which he was most proud include a number of local projects and initiatives. In the early 1980’s, along with his Cabinet colleagues, the Right Honourable Herb Gray and the Honourable Mark MacGuigan, Gene played an important role in preventing the downfall of the Chrysler Corporation and also made new investments by Ford possible with help from the federal government. He was also able to help with numerous community projects, and was very proud of Amherstburg’s King’s Navy Yard Park and the K. Walter Ranta Marina as well as the Belle River Marina, to name just a few. But perhaps what Eugene was most proud of was the fact that he was able to help literally thousands of individual constituents with issues of all sorts affecting them and their families.
Gene loved to help and to serve, and he has left a tremendous legacy that will outlive him for many years to come. He will be fondly remembered for what he’s done and for who he was – a wise, informed, sincere, colourful, non-judgemental gentleman and activist who wanted everyone to have meaningful opportunities. Thank you, Senator.
Visitation will be held at St. John the Baptist Church, 225 Brock St., Amherstburg, Friday February 22, 2013 from 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. Family and friends are to meet directly at the Church Saturday February 23, 2013 from 10:30 a.m. until time of Funeral Mass at 11:00 a.m. Interment to follow at St. John the Baptist Cemetery. As your expression of sympathy donations to St. John the Baptist Church Restoration Fund, Heart & Stroke Foundation or Charity of Your Choice. Online condolences & cherished memories may be shared with the family at www.jhsutton-funeral.ca
The family wishes to express their sincere gratitude and appreciation to the medical community at Hotel Dieu and Windsor Regional Rehab Hospital, you made it possible for him to return home, and we cannot thank you enough. A special thank you to Dr. Bill Pignanelli, Jackie Pignanelli, Cindy Robitaille, Darlene Meloche and her entire care team.
(Funeral arrangements entrusted to the JAMES H. SUTTON FUNERAL HOME, AMHERSTBURG, 519-736-2134)