Living life to the Fullest
By Kristen Fox / SUN contributing writers
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Deacon Patrick Whipple remembered for devotion to faith, family and community
Family and friends gathered March 12 at Holy Family Church to pay their final respects to Deacon Patrick R. Whipple, a beloved husband, father, U.S. Marine Corps veteran and firefighter. In the midst of their sorrow, mourners praised a life lived to the fullest and a man much loved and respected by the community he served. Deacon Whipple, 71, died on March 8. A resident of Fairmount, Deacon Whipple was born on Aug. 25, 1931 in Syracuse. He graduated from Central High School in 1950 and lived in Westvale for 33 years. He was a U.S. Marine Corps veteran of the Korean Conflict.
Deacon Whipple served as a firefighter with the Syracuse Fire Department for 21 years, was promoted to lieutenant and was last assigned as an instructor to the city’s fire training facility. In 1962, the city honored him with the Francis Hendrick Award in recognition for heroism in saving a man’s life in the line of duty. He was ordained into the diaconate in May of 2000.
Father Paul Angelicchio, pastor of Holy Family Church, celebrated the funeral Mass and was assisted by Deacon Nick Alvaro. Bishop James Moynihan, diocesan clergy and representatives from Syracuse’s Fire Department also gathered to pay their respects.
During the homily, Father Angelicchio recalled little things about Deacon Whipple, such as how he often cooked for his pals at the fire station and his great wit. He also reflected on the things that were most meaningful to Deacon Whipple, like his devotion to his family and his commitment to the diaconate.
Father Angelicchio said that while Deacon Whipple’s family was at the center of his life, he loved being a deacon and serving the people of Holy Family Church. Father Angelicchio remembered Deacon Whipple as a great deacon who was respected and admired by all who knew him.
“A deacon is supposed to live and teach the Gospel,” said Father Angelicchio. “This is what Pat put into practice every day. He loved, served, celebrated and was happy in our Lord. Everyone who met him knew this.” Father Angelicchio added that Deaon Whipple lived his life with a tremendous faith in God. “A great preacher once told me that he begins each homily with a dry throat, weakness in his legs and butterflies in his stomach. That same preacher said that it is at this moment when he puts everything in the hands of God,” said Father Angelicchio. “That preacher was Pat. This is how he lived his life; he had such a warm and humble faith in God. If anyone trusted in God, it was Pat. He had the ultimate faith that God would take care of him and sustain him.”
During the funeral Mass Tracie Burns, granddaughter, and Fred Robinson, long-time friend, offered words of remembrance. Burns said that she and her husband were the first couple Deacon Whipple married. She remarked how she would have never gotten through the biggest day of her life without her grandfather. “I remember being so nervous,” Burns stated. “But I just kept on telling myself to walk to my grandfather. Focusing on him and his huge smile was what got me down the aisle without a tear.”
Her grandfather meant so much to so many people, Burns said. “I am in awe of all the great things that people have to say about my grandfather,” she noted. “I can only hope that my life is as happy and fulfilling as his was.” Robinson said when he met Deacon Whipple they instantly became good friends. He and Deacon Whipple, whom he calls “Whip,” would often go golfing together. Robinson remembered one time in particular after his heart surgery. There were no golf carts and Deacon Whipple, knowing about his friend’s weak heart, offered to pull Robinson’s cart around the course –– bad knees and all.
“This is the picture I will keep of him in my mind,” said Robinson. “It represents what a selfless man and great person he was.” Bishop Moynihan, who blessed the body at the end of the funeral Mass, summarized Deacon Whipple with one word –– fidelity. He said that Deacon Whipple was a great Christian, faithful to his baptism, his marriage, and the diaconate. He also remembered Deacon Whipple as a man with bad kness, but stated that this will not be a problem now that he is with God.
“Deacon Whipple will no longer have to worry about his bad knees. When we see pictures of people who have gone to be with Christ they are standing. And this is where Deacon Whipple is now, with God.” Deacon Whipple is survived by his wife of 52 years Marion Whipple of Fairmount; one son, Michael Whipple of Chester, Va.; two daughters, Sherry Carr of Otisco and Colleen Robinson of Wayne, Pa.; one sister, Mary Bissetta of Jamesville; four brothers, James and Andrew, both of Fairmount, John of Syracuse and Fred of Chittenango; seven granddaughters, two great-grandsons and many nieces and nephews. Father Angelicchio recalled how Deacon Whipple closed the last homily he gave one Sunday last month. Deacon Whipple told parishioners to use wisely the gifts they have been given for the glory of God. Father Angelicchio said that this is exactly what Deacon Whipple did with his life.
“If ever there was a man who used his gifts for the glory of God, it was Pat, 100-fold,” said Father Angelicchio. “We love you, Pat and we are so grateful that you shared your gifts with us.”