It is with immense sadness that we announce the passing of our past president, Hon. Theresa Whelan, which occurred on December 26, 2022. Judge Whelan is survived by her loving husband, Hon. Thomas F. Whelan, and two adult children, Erin and Joe, and one beautiful granddaughter, Andrea. We will forward the funeral arrangements as soon as they are known.
Judge Whelan, who served as president of the Suffolk County Women’s Bar from 2002 through 2003, was a fierce advocate and supporter of our organization, accomplished jurist, loving wife and mother, and will be truly missed by all whose lives she touched. In 2018, Judge Whelan was elected as the Judge of the Surrogate’s Court of Suffolk County, a position which she held until she retired in June of 2022. First elected to Suffolk County Family Court in 2007, where she heard primarily child abuse and neglect cases, Judge Whelan then served as the Supervising Judge of that court from 2016 through 2019. As a jurist, Judge Whelan was an innovator, implementing a well-received alternative dispute resolution program in the Surrogate’s Court, and reforming the Family Court to better accommodate the needs of parties and litigants such as the Remote Access Domestic Violence Program and the Safe Baby Program, which minimized the trauma and the impact on babies and toddlers separated from their birth parents and increased the likelihood of reunification.
Judge Whelan began her law career in 1988 as a Suffolk County Assistant Attorney. In 1990 she began her career in the judicial system, serving as a law clerk to three Supreme Court Justices: the Honorable Eli Wager (Nassau County), the Honorable Mary M. Werner, and the Honorable William B. Rebolini. During her seventeen years in the Supreme Court, she worked in nearly every part of that court, including civil litigation, guardianship, tax certiorari and condemnation cases as well as matrimonial matters. Judge Whelan received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and a Master of Science degree in Policy Analysis and Public Management from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, and a Juris Doctor from Albany Law School.
Judge Whelan was an active member of the local bar and has been often recognized for her service. In addition to her membership in our organization, Judge Whelan was an active member of the Suffolk County Bar Association and the New York State Bar Association. In 2022, Judge Whelan was the recipient of the prestigious Marilyn R. Menge Award from the Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York for her valuable and significant contributions to our chapter and the state association, and she is a past recipient of the Suffolk County Bar Associations President’s Award. She was a frequent lecturer for these organizations as well as other local and specialty bar associations.
As accomplished as she was in the legal field, Judge Whelan was also an avid outdoorswoman who enjoyed hiking with her husband, running, biking and kayaking at the beach. Her enthusiasm for life was infectious and inspiring and she was a role model for many young women attorneys. Judge Whelan loved her family dearly. Her children were the light of her life and her relationship with her extended family was cherished. She was an amazing mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, cousin, colleague and friend. She touched the lives of so many people. She will truly be missed and will never, ever, be forgotten.