Robert Whaley

Former Anchorage doctor Robert Whaley died April 6, 2014, at home in Bend, Oregon.

Robert Whaley was a chemist, physicist, geologist, meteorologist, physician, and pilot. For many years, he held the distinction of being part of the oldest pilot-airplane combination in Alaska.

Whaley's first degrees from UC Berkeley were in seismology and physics. He joined the Air Force Weather Bureau during World War II, later serving as a physician on Elmendorf. He studied psychology and psychiatry, but became an internal medicine specialist. He worked with the Public Health Service's Arctic Health Research Institute, flying himself around Alaska for cardiac research.

Bob Whaley was named Physician of the Year for his work to immunize Anchorage residents with the Polio Vaccine after the 1954 Anchorage Polio epidemic. He received the honor again in 1976, when he led discussion on malpractice issues. Whaley and Dr. George Hale did the first cardiac resuscitation in Alaska, and Whaley carried out the first atrial fibrillation conversion in Alaska. He assisted in frostbite research and was president of the Alaska State Medical Association and the Alaska Heart Association. Whaley and his first wife Helen were leaders in the medical community. He married Dr. Jean Persons after Helen died of breast cancer.

Dr. Whaley loved anything mechanical, especially fast cars, motorcycles and planes. Driving with him was always an adventure. He survived numerous antics in his planes (including purposefully stalling the plane and crawling onto the wing to prop the propeller) and several major accidents on solo motorcycle excursions. In his sixties, Robert Whaley began a series of fourteen motorcycle trips in the Alps with Jean. Only blindness in his eighties stopped his riding and flying. Having married into a ready-made family at 57, he flew Jean and his young daughters to camping sites in his Super Cub, landing on glaciers, streambeds, mountaintops, and beaches all over Alaska.

He is survived by his wife of 38 years, Jean Persons; daughters and sons-in-law, Tammy (Smit) Everhart and John Everhart, Renee Smit and Douglas Nelson, all of Bend, Oregon, and Michele Whaley and Karl Wilhelmi of Anchorage; and five grandchildren.

Published in Alaska Dispatch News from Apr. 10 to Apr. 11, 2014