Thomas Wilson Whalen, 86, Baltimore City police sergeant in mounted unit

November 15, 1999|By Gady Epstein | Gady Epstein,SUN STAFF

Growing up on a farm in Harford County, Thomas Wilson Whalen learned his love of horses -- a passion that became the foundation of his livelihood throughout a 38-year career with Baltimore City Police Department.

Mr. Whalen, who headed the city's mounted police unit for almost two decades before retiring in 1980, died of congestive heart failure Thursday at Lakeside Manor assisted living facility in Northeast Baltimore. He was 86.

A longtime resident of Brehms Lane until his declining health prompted a move to Lakeside Manor this year, he was as comfortable on horseback in the countryside as on the traffic-snarled streets of the city.

"Harford County, that's where he got his love for the horses," said his son, T. Brian Whalen, recalling his father's stories of driving construction crews in wagons to and from work as a child, before and after school.

He was born in Abingdon and educated in Harford County before moving to Baltimore, where he worked as a van driver for several years. In 1937, he married Mildred M. Ege, who died in March.

Mr. Whalen joined the police force in 1942 and entered the mounted unit a short time later.

For 18 years, he rode his first horse, Blackie, on the streets of downtown Baltimore, though he was forced to walk his beat the day a snowstorm produced a maddening citywide traffic jam in December 1951.

In the early 1960s, Mr. Whalen was promoted to sergeant and became head of the mounted unit. In 1976, he was instrumental in starting an adopt-a-horse program that put police horses out to pastures for a comfortable retirement. He would frequently visit one of his horses, Blaze, with a bag of carrots in hand.

"I tell you, these horses have it good, like paradise," Mr. Whalen told The Evening Sun in 1979.

"Even after they were adopted he would go out and look them over to make sure they were treated well," said his son. "They would all see him walking up to the fence, they would all run over to him. They all remembered him."

Brian Whalen followed in his father's footsteps and joined the police force in 1962. He retired in 1989 from the traffic division, though he was never an officer in the mounted unit.

"I always wanted to get into the mounted division, but I was never a real good rider like my dad," he said with a laugh. "I wanted to kind of follow in my father's trail."

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10: 30 a.m. today at Shrine of the Little Flower Roman Catholic Church, Belair Road and Brendan Avenue.

Besides his son, a Parkville resident, Mr. Whalen is survived by two sisters, Helena Sandelin and Ellen Rolland, both of Baltimore; and many nieces and nephews.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.