Tribute to David Whelan Brings Out Hundreds to the Navy Yard

By Seth Daniel

Were the late David Whelan still alive today, family members last week said he’d be busy finding someone to put a daily shine on the bronze plaque dedicated to him last Friday, June 10, in the Navy Yard – a plaque that memorializes him as the anchor of the community and a leader in the Town who sought to bring both Charlestowns together into “One Charlestown.”

“Leave it to David to have a plaque – bronze nonetheless – dedicated in his honor on an anchor right next to a National Park,” said his cousin, Kim Mahoney, who spoke for the family. “Dave, we have always said you were an anchor in this Town and a bridge for the community, and now it is official…The location here in the Navy Yard couldn’t be more right.”

Whelan, who lost a battle with cancer last December, was a member of the Charlestown Neighborhood Council (CNC) that represented the Navy Yard, an MWRA employee in the Navy Yard, a life-long resident of the Town and a founding member of the Friends of the Navy Yard. He was also dedicated to the Bunker Hill Day Parade and, despite living on the hill, saw it as crucial to bring the new Charlestown in the Navy Yard and the old Charlestown on the hill together.

His sense of humor, dedication to the community and his penchant for facts and numbers were celebrated as part of his unique personality.

Mayor Martin Walsh said his first experience with Whelan was when he was working for the Building Trades Council and was in on a meeting with Whelan and a developer. Whelan had a spreadsheet of workers from Charlestown who were unemployed, and knew all the circumstances of their lives and implored the developer to put the Towns-folk to work.

“I told him, ‘I don’t know if that’s legal, but you go,’” said Walsh with a laugh.

“Dave’s loss is not only big to Charlestown, but also to the whole city,” said Walsh. “In civic life and government you see fewer and fewer people like David Whelan who fight for the community they live in and do that right up to the very end. To the last minute, he cared for this Town. Whether you were a 5th generation Townie or had lived here five minutes, he cared for everyone the same.”

Councilor Sal LaMattina recalled that when first elected 10 years ago, Whelan called him to talk about Navy Yard issues. LaMattina hadn’t gotten a lot of support in Charlestown, but Whelan was ready to work with him. Over the years, that working relationship blossomed, LaMattina said.

“That’s a call I would always return,” said LaMattina. “The funny thing is those calls he made to me were never for David Whelan. They were for the Town. They were to help others. The Town is a better place because of David. He bridged the Navy Yard and Charlestown and made it one Charlestown.”

Said Michael Parker, who acted as emcee of the event, “Charlestown’s favorite son was taken away from us way too early.”

Many members of Whelan’s family were present at the unveiling of the plaque, including Mahoney, wife Maryhelen Whelan, mother Kitty Whelan, Jacqueline Chaisson, Bridgette Ridlon, Little Jack Ridlon, Eric Ridlon, Jean Marie Chaisson, and Chris Cory.

Little Jack Ridlon – wearing a hat bought for him by the late David Whelan – touches a picture of his late relative during a dedication last Friday morning, June 10, in the Navy Yard. Pointing to the picture is Whelan’s wife, Maryhelen, and looking on is Whelan’s mother, Kitty. An anchor in the Navy Yard was dedicated to the late David Whelan as a tribute to his work to unite the Town and make it “One Charlestown.”

Little Jack Ridlon – wearing a hat bought for him by the late David Whelan – touches a picture of his late relative during a dedication last Friday morning, June 10, in the Navy Yard. Pointing to the picture is Whelan’s wife, Maryhelen, and looking on is Whelan’s mother, Kitty. An anchor in the Navy Yard was dedicated to the late David Whelan as a tribute to his work to unite the Town and make it “One Charlestown.”

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