I Want To Tell You About My Dear Friend Tim:
August 29, 2014 at 8:25pm
I first met Tim Whalen 44 years ago last Wednesday when Harold Goff hired him to teach History and English at Grant Jr. High School where I was teaching instrumental music. My first impression of the man was “boy is he short…and kinda cocky.” As the year progressed we found that we had the same lunch period. It was in that lunchroom that I learned more than I ever wanted to know about LSU football! You see, Timothy H. Whalen was an “all-american” LSU fan. That is not to suggest that he was an all American LSU athlete, just an “all-american” fan.
As the early years continued, we did discover some like interests. We both liked to play basketball for one. There were many a weekend when we “borrowed” coach Stell’s keys to the gym and played some one-on-one games. Actually it was closer to 1/14 (me) to 3/4 (him). If I drove the lane, he would invariably make a hasty retreat from any possible contact. He, on the other hand could drive around me like I was standing still, and in many cases, I was!
I’m not sure how this came to pass, but after one of our games, I returned home (we had become roommates) to shower and wash the truck in the driveway. Tim stayed at school to use the whirlpool. Tim somehow managed to lock himself out of the coaches’ office (where he had left all his clothes, keys, and ID) and found himself needing to get home (in a stark naked state). Now, you would think that he would call me to come and pick him up…right? ‘fraid not. You see, he had a hide-a-key on the ‘vette and decided to drive home in that rather exposed state. He crawled to the car, ran several yellow lights and pulled up in our drive rather happy to sprint for the front door.
Another thing we had in common was an interest in model railroading. At the time, we were both running HO brass engines and large consists of passenger and freight cars. We both had a rather large collection of high quality equipment. One day, we decided (actually Tim decided) that we should have a contest to see whose engine would pull a larger train…his Sierra Articulated or my Baldwin NYC Pa1 and Pb1. After several loops around his large double mainline, it was apparent that my large brass engine was going to win…he did not take that at all well.
In 1974, I was elected Grant Jr. High “Teacher of the Year”. Not to be outdone, Tim was proudly elected “Teacher of the Year” in 1975. When I left Grant to work at Manzano High School, Tim was hired on at Sandia High School as vice-principal. He was very successful as an administrator and in very little time, he became the principal at Manzano High School. About that time, I left Hoover Middle School for California and started my first tenure at San Dimas High School. We had been roommates at two different rental houses for a total of 7 years. Those years were good times and I could write many, many stories about the silliness, the serious times, the arguments, the differences in our dietary desires…oh, so many stories. Tim credits his friend Ronnie Sherlock (a Louisiana band director) and myself for showing him the importance of music and other fine arts in the schools. As principal, he always made sure that the arts were WELL supported and had only top notch instructors. He was also one of the ONLY principals who made it to concerts, showings, festivals and events by the artists in his charge and made sure that they were as revered as his athletic teams. He was unique in that regard.
Our friendship was just warming up after I left New Mexico. As our eyesight began to age, we both moved on from HO to O gauge mostly Lionel trains. He actually had begun collecting Lionel long before he convinced me to “upgrade” as he put it. We would make it a tradition (he was an “all-american’ traditionalist as well) to see each other occasionally…perhaps even twice a year in some years, and mostly around train meets and in later years, just because we wanted to. He relished his trips to LA and I made sure to take him to every hobby shop that ever existed in the LA area over the last 30 years. We traded, trains, bought trains for each other, and continued to BS about everything from LSU football to Lobo basketball. We developed a great skill at the friendly insult and exercised the insult at every possible opportunity. I called him “tiny man” and he would often refer to me as ….well, somethings are best left unsaid!
When I had my hospitalization for acute pancreatitis last October, he was very concerned and called me every day. He came out in March and spent a Sunday afternoon listening to my San Dimas Jazz Workshop Big Band at Ladera Serra Park. I had him take several photos of the rehearsal and he made it a point to talk to each musician if for no other reason to state that I was “just no good”!
Last month, he finally convinced me to take Nancy and let him host us at his home in Albuquerque. He gave us the run of the place and even though he was already back at work as principal of an elementary parochial school, he made sure to stay up late with me long after Nancy went to bed as we shared old war stories about our past and our future. We had, for several years shared a desire to take a road trip to York, Pennsylvania to visit the worlds largest train meet and after several years of prodding, I finally had him convinced that he would retire this coming June. Our trip was to take place in October of 2015.
Tim called me two weeks ago to re-assure me that my upcoming prostate biopsy would be a breeze. In his less than delicate way, he said that they would simply lay me on my side and put the needles “up my heinney”. I was not particularly re-assured. He was going to come out in November for the train meet in Ontario, CA. It was another of our traditions. I wish I could have been there for him last Saturday night when he collapsed. He always pushed himself too hard and never accepted that he was aging. He passed last night at 7:00 pm MST. Nancy is in Simi tonight and I am alone with Cody and the cat…more alone than I have been in a long while! I already miss him DEARLY. I love him so much. -Ed
ps- Nancy and I returned home last night from a whirlwind drive to Albuquerque where I had the honor of being a pallbearer for Tim. We had a chance to re-connect with some terrific friends and to meet some wonderful new friends as well. The service was very well done and the church was standing room only. Tim would have appreciated that. The graveside service was short but well done and We said goodbye to our friend around noon on Tuesday. Love and prayers go out to Susan, Kevin, Ryan and Charley during this time of grief.