Obituary: Capt. Edward Charles Whelan Jr. (1928-2023)

Fullerton, CA – In Loving Memory of Capt. Edward Charles Whelan Jr. (Ret.):

A Faithful Servant, Devoted Family Man, True Patriot

Captain Edward C. Whelan Jr., a distinguished naval officer who cherished God, family, country, and the art of spinning a shaggy dog story, has sailed his final voyage at the age of 94.

Born in Omaha, NE in 1928, son of Edward Whelan and Mary Margaret Weppner Whelan, Capt. Whelan’s life was a testament to unwavering love, devotion, and an unshakable commitment to duty.

Ed Whelan was raised in the heart of the Midwest. He grew up in Ord, NE and moved to Omaha, where he attended Creighton Prep and graduated from Creighton University. As a young man, he was an accomplished Boy Scout, and found joy in outdoor activities. He was always impeccably dressed, a true embodiment of discipline and respect.

In 1951, Ed Whelan was commissioned into the United States Navy in the very first class of the new Officer Candidate School (OCS) in Newport, R.I., for which he would have command oversight later in his career. Over the next three decades, he served his country during the Korean War, Vietnam War, and the Cold War, earning numerous accolades and decorations from the Navy, including the prestigious Legion of Merit, Bronze Star with Valor, and Meritorious Service Medals. Capt. Whelan commanded the USS Rich, served at the Pentagon in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, led Destroyer Squadron 28 as Commodore, and served as Commanding Officer of the Naval Education and Training Center, Newport, R.I., demonstrating exceptional leadership and dedication throughout each posting.

Beyond his military achievements, Capt. Whelan was a loving husband and devoted father. He shared nearly 65 years of marriage with his beloved wife, Marvel Anne (Johnnie) Reynolds Whelan, who was his anchor and confidante. Together, they raised a talented daughter and a charming son, both of whom he was immensely proud. He is survived by wife Marvel Anne Whelan of Orange, CA (Omaha); brothers Msgr. Bill Whelan of Omaha, NE; Donald J. Whelan of St. Louis, MO; daughter Diane W. Nelson and her husband Peter W. Nelson of Newport, RI; son Ed C. Whelan III and Silvana V. Whelan of San Diego, CA; and adored grandsons Charles J. Nelson of Los Angeles; Christopher J. Nelson of Newport, R.I.; and Patrick E. Whelan of San Diego, CA.

Following his Navy career, Ed worked for Hughes Aircraft Co. in Newport, RI and Fullerton, CA, relocated to the West Coast to be closer to his children, and continued to serve his community through various boards. He was an active member of his local church, St. Joseph Church in Placentia, CA, generously giving his time and energy, serving as an inspiration to others through his compassion and service. He proudly published his career memoirs in 2020, titled “Sea Stories…of a Rewarding Career.”

Above all, Ed’s heart belonged to his faith and his family. Capt. Whelan’s life was a shining example of what it means to be a true patriot, a devoted family man, a faithful servant of God, and a distinguished military leader. He leaves behind a legacy of humor, love, dedication, and commitment that will forever be etched in our hearts.

May he rest in eternal peace.

A funeral Mass will be held for family and friends at St. Joseph’s Church in Placentia, CA on Saturday, September 16, 2023 at 10 a.m. Interment with military honors will follow on Wednesday, September 20 at Calvary Cemetery in Omaha, NE.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in Capt. Whelan’s memory to Catholic Relief Services ( or Mercy Corps (




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