Gene Child Whaples, age 85, of Greenbelt, MD, passed away peacefully at home and went home to the Lord just before sunrise on March 28, 2023.
Gene grew up in Glastonbury and Storrs, Connecticut, where he learned to love nature, camping, and animals, and developed a passion for serving others and making the world around him a better place. His father was the State 4-H Club Leader for the University of Connecticut Cooperative Extension System, and young Gene was very active in 4-H and raised chickens and sheep. He attended Windham High School where he was a fullback on the football team and graduated in 1956.
Upon graduation from high school, he studied at the University of Connecticut, where he met the love of his life, Marlene Dreher, and they married in 1959. In 1960, he graduated with a B.S. in Agriculture.
He loved his country, and received an ROTC commission in the U.S. Army, where he became an Airborne Ranger. He achieved the rank of Captain and served both domestically and in West Germany. Prior to his commission, he also served in the Connecticut Air National Guard.
After leaving the military in 1964, he and his young family moved to Manhattan, Kansas where he received an M.S. in Extension Education from Kansas State University. From 1965-1969, Gene worked as a county 4-H agent for the State of Michigan Cooperative Extension Service. In 1969, the family relocated to New Carrollton, MD, and Gene began his career as a member of the faculty at the University of Maryland. In 1974, he earned a Ph.D. in Extension and Continuing Education. He continued to work as a 4-H and Youth Development leader, and in 1978 the family moved to Lanham, MD. He was deeply involved in the American Association for Adult and Continuing Education (AAACE), and served as president from 1982-1983.
During these years in Maryland, the family would always return to the rustic Whaples family cottage on Crystal Pond in Eastford, CT for extended summer vacations at “the lake,” and, in 1983, Gene returned to his home state to join the faculty of the University of Connecticut and settle in Mansfield Center with his wife and youngest daughter. He retired as Professor and Associate Director of the University of Connecticut Cooperative Extension System in 1994.
After retirement, he built a home in Eastford, CT with his son David, who designed the house. Gene and Marlene spent eleven years in Eastford and fourteen in Louisburg, NC, before relocating to Old Greenbelt in 2020 to be closer to family. Gene enjoyed working with wood throughout his life, and remodeled several homes and made beautiful furniture, cutting boards, and bowls. He also loved gardening, hiking, and traveling with his wife Marlene, and together they instilled a love of the outdoors in all of their children. Gene was an avid reader, had a mischievous sense of humor, and touched countless people through the years with his wisdom and integrity. He was active in the church, serving as a deacon, elder, and chairman of the church council, and shared his great faith with all who knew him.
He will be greatly missed by his family: beloved wife of more than 63 years, Marlene Dreher Whaples of Greenbelt, and children Diane Whaples-Lee (Tim) of Odenton, MD; Dr. Robert Whaples (Regina) of Winston-Salem, NC; David Whaples (Marilou) and Laura Whaples Petix, both of Greenbelt. He leaves eight grandchildren, three great-grandchildren, and his brother Randolph Whaples, Jr. (Mary Ellen) of Melbourne, FL. He was predeceased by his parents, Randolph and Beatrice Whaples of Storrs, CT, and brother Donald (Myrna) of Barre, VT. In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to Samaritan’s Purse or Greenbelt Baptist Church, 101 Greenhill Rd., Greenbelt, MD 20770.
A memorial service will be held at Greenbelt Baptist Church on Saturday, April 15th at 2 PM.