Meet Sailing Club Historian Faye Whalen
With a family nickname like “The Sailin’ Whalens,” it’s no wonder Faye Whalen would wind up as historian for the 59-year-old Indianapolis Sailing Club. Her long personal history as a sailing afficionado made Faye a natural choice as to succeed 97-year-old founding member Helen Welcher, who passed away in January of this year.
In a recent visit to the Whalen home, Faye shared her own history — which dates back to World War II, as well as the early years of Geist Reservoir and the sailing club she has been active in for more than 45 years.
Sailing has always been a part of the Whalen’s marriage. As a career serviceman, Bill Whalen was stationed in many different locations, but the couple moved back to Indiana for good in 1961. They bought a sailboat at the McCormick Place Boat Show and soon joined the Indianapolis Sailing Club on Geist.
Over the years, the Whalens had three children (Gayle, Rene and Mark) who all served as crew members of their Thistle class sailboat. Faye recalls fond family memories sailing with her husband and children, including many sailing regatta trips around the country.
Friends dubbed the family “The Sailin’ Whalens” with a wooden sign that still greets visitors to their home near Geist. “Sailing is a great family activity. Everyone young and old can work together on the sailboat,” Faye notes.
As much as she enjoys sailing, this aquatic activity hasn”t been the only passion in Faye Whalen’s life.
“When I was a young girl, I just loved to dance,” she said as she flipped the pages of a scrapbook full of black and white photos. “Five of my high school friends and I were asked to be part of the traveling USO Camp Shows. We were thrilled!”
Her first job out of high school was a dream come true: Dancing with her friends, traveling the country with professional entertainers and a whopping salary of $65 a week (“The average pay during those days for a woman was 50 cents an hour, 75 cents if they knew how to type.”). After 19 months on the road, Faye returned to Chicago, where she entered business school.
“I had no intentions back then to get married or settle down. My dream was to be a court reporter in Europe and see the world.”
Marrying her childhood friend Bill Whalen in 1948 stalled her plans for Europe, but Faye did find work as a court reporter each time Bill was transferred. And she never gave up on her childhood dream. To mark their 30th wedding anniversary, Faye and Bill traveled to Europe. Their fairy tale trip was highlighted with dinner at the Eiffel Tower in France on their anniversary night.
Today, Faye’s family circle is fairly large. Her three children have given her three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. All five of her USO Camp dance girlfriends are still active and talk frequently. And last but not least, the hundreds of sailing families and friends she has met and sailed with over the years keep her young.
Faye Whalen has become a part of the Indianapolis Sailing Club institution, preserving the stories, the photos and most importantly, the memories for future generations. She has lived much of the club’s history, adding a color commentary that scrapbooks and photo albums could never fully capture.