I’ve been slow to write about the death of my dear friend Michael F. Whelan last week. He was known to many as “Wiggins,” the head of the Baker Street Irregulars, and in that capacity, he was a giant. Ernie Banks, perhaps the greatest of the Chicago Cubs ballplayers, said, “The measure of a man is in the lives he’s touched.” By that standard, Mike was a colossus bestriding the globe, for he surely touched more lives for the better than any other person I know. Last year, I was privileged to edit a book of recollections of Mike written by more than 30 of his friends, published by the BSI, and I was not at all surprised to read of the depth and breadth of joy that Mike had engendered. Mike treasured this book, and I’m glad we put it together–too often we don’t get around to telling people what they mean to us.
I met Mike through the Baker Street Irregulars, and we talked weekly about Sherlockian affairs. But what began as a common interest evolved into a deep friendship. Through Mike, I met his partner Mary Ann Bradley (and she was indeed a true partner in everything he did). They were married more than 60 years, and I was delighted to be wrapped in their mutual embrace. I’ve lost count of the books debated, meals cooked together and shared, martinis drunk, bookstores and libraries and gardens and museums visited. Mike and Mary Ann didn’t believe in taxis or Uber–if I was flying to Indy, they were going to pick me up and take me back to the airport. I was a guest in their home more times than I can recall (and they in ours), and it was always a special treat to prowl Mike’s library in search of a book that I didn’t have (yet). Mike was assiduous about getting his books signed, and I was careful to send him a copy of each and every one of mine. These packages would always instigate a phone call from Mike, acknowledging its receipt–Mike was a constant cheerleader and always inspired me to do more.
I felt blessed to have a friend like Mike, and I know that my wife Sharon did too. If you are fortunate enough to have a Michael Whelan in your life, give him or her a hug now, before it’s too late. I traveled to Indianapolis in late July to do just that, and I’m glad I did.
There will be a giant hole in my world without Mike.