When Bob and Pat Whalen were born in New York City in 1931, they were considered “throw-away kids” as they were both left to fend for themselves at very young ages, each cast aside by their parents. Bob, who never knew his mother and father, was raised by his Aunt Margaret, along with his grandmother, and grandfather Zsedel. Pat was placed in a home for several months then given to her grandparents to raise. Despite a rough start, together Bob and Pat built a life filled with love, a commitment to family and giving back.
“Bob’s Aunt Margaret, and his grandparents, were wonderful human beings,” shared Pat. “They instilled in him the positive attitude that you can do anything if you put your mind and might to it. He believed this throughout his life. There was nothing he felt he could not do. Especially in this wonderful country.”
The couple met as young kids during World War II, at Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church on the Upper East Side and married in 1951. Pat waxes poetically that their wedding luncheon consisted of a hot dog and a shared orange drink at the iconic Nedick’s restaurant.
“After our wedding vows were spoken, we offered the minister a small token of our appreciation,” said Pat. “He returned it and told us to do something fun with it. I had my ideas, but Mr. Wonderful (Bob) won, and we went to the Strand Theater to see the movie Jim Thorpe – All-American. I recall that day like it was yesterday.”
Having moved more than 26 times during their lives together, Bob and Pat have both been blessed by the opportunities of hard work, wonderful mentors and a passion for philanthropy. Bob’s career was always on the up and up. Bob, who passed away on November 1, 2021 worked tirelessly and became a widely known and respected aerospace executive who led and developed numerous high technology companies throughout the U.S. He held senior executive management positions at Aerospace Corporation, Martin Marietta Aerospace, Global Analytics, Alcoa, Lockheed Martin, and Titan. As an entrepreneur, he started and sold two successful technology-based companies. His sincere faith, tenacity, and Irish and Hungarian spirit guided him all his life. And Pat was always there to support his important work remembering what her mentor taught her… never wear your husband’s stars.
“Being the children of immigrants, we always felt so blessed to have had such an amazing life and afforded the endless opportunities of living in this wonderful country,” said Pat. “That is why throughout our marriage, we were always dedicated to giving back as much as we could.”
And give back they did. Their impact together has changed countless lives by awarding numerous scholarships through the University of San Diego Bob & Pat Whalen Military Scholarship, the San Diego Education Fund, Valencia College, the University of Central Florida and countless other organizations. They always agreed on where their donations and support would do the best.
“We always had a passion for helping the community in every way that we could,” said Pat. “We were blessed in life, and we felt it was important to share what we have with those in need of opportunities. I am committed to continuing the legacy that Bob and I started together during our 70 years of marriage.”
The couple lived by the Frank Sinatra song “My Way,” which Bob loved. “This song represents how Bob lived his entire life,” said Pat. And that is how I will continue to live mine.”