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Obituary Stories

Irwin man stood watch during the Cold War

Jacob Tierney
| Tuesday, March 6, 2018, 3:36 p.m.
James B. Whalen, 79, of Irwin, died Sunday, March 4, 2018.
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James B. Whalen, 79, of Irwin, died Sunday, March 4, 2018.

When Americans feared Soviet bombs would rain on Pittsburgh and other cities, National Guardsmen such as James Whalen of Irwin stood watch through the height of the Cold War.

Whalen helped man the Army's Nike Ajax Guided Missile System, which defended Pittsburgh from Soviet aircraft in the 1950s and '60s.

“It's like a forgotten part of the Cold War,” said his son, Jason Whalen. “Those guys who did their jobs never got recognition.”

Mr. Whalen didn't want recognition.

He rarely talked about his time in the National Guard, preferring to focus on his family.

“He was the best guy in the world. He was a good husband, a good father,” said his wife, Helen Whalen.

James B. Whalen, 79, of Irwin died Sunday, March 4, 2018, at UPMC McKees­port hospital.

He was born on Nov. 18, 1938, in North Huntingdon, a son of the late Eugene F. Jr. and Anna (Kling­ensmith) Whalen.

Mr. Whalen worked as a machinist for Penn State Tool and Die.

He was a quiet, intelligent man who enjoyed reading about history.

“He was very quiet, but he took in everything. He said, ‘When you talk you aren't learning,' ” his wife said.

After retirement, he traveled across the country and around the world with his wife, his brother Jack Whalen, and Jack's wife, Deb.

“We just did everything together, and we had such good times. Laughed a lot, met a lot of good people,” his wife said.

He was a member and officer of numerous social organizations, including Loyal Order of Moose 236, of Irwin; the American Legion Post 359, of Irwin; the Italian Miners Club, Hahntown; and the Fraternal Order of Eagles 844 in Jeannette.

He enjoyed watching NASCAR, football, golf and “Jeopardy.”

He is survived by his wife of 47 years, Helen (Shaffer) Whalen; two sons, James Whalen Jr. of North Huntingdon and Jason Whalen of Greensburg; and five grandchildren.

Friends will be received from 2 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at Ott Funeral Home, 805 Pennsylvania Ave., Irwin.

Parting prayers will be held at 9 a.m. Thursday in the funeral home, followed by a 9:30 a.m. Mass of Christian Burial at Immaculate Conception Church. Interment will follow in Twin Valley Memorial Park, Delmont.

Memorial donations may be made to the Relay For Life of Norwin, c/o American Cancer Society, 510 Pellis Road, Suite 203, Greensburg, PA 15601, or to Immaculate Conception Church, 308 Second St., Irwin, PA 15642.

Jacob Tierney is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6646 or jtierney@tribweb.com.

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