Thomas Courtenay Jenkins Whedbee was born in Baltimore on February 22, 1919, the youngest son of the four children of James Simpson and Eleanor Jenkins Whedbee. For all of his life, every birthday celebration was decorated with pictures and figures of George Washington cutting down a cherry tree, in honor of the country’s first president with whom he shared his birthday. Mr. Whedbee , his brother, and two sisters grew up on Lake Avenue at their family home “Edgewood.” For much of his life, Lake Avenue was populated with relatives—Jenkins, Coopers, Whedbees, and more—in adjoining homes. Growing up surrounded by aunts, uncles, and cousins had the effect of instilling in Mr. Whedbee a deep love of family, and being a part of such a large extended family was one of the greatest joys in his life.
After graduating from Gilman School in 1937, Mr. Whedbee went on to Princeton University where he earned a degree in 1941. Out the outbreak of World War II, Mr. Whedbee enlisted in the United States Marine Corps where he served on the battleship U.S.S. West Virginia as a senior artillery officer. During the Battle of Leyte Gulf in October 1944, the West Virginia and five other battleships had the distinction of crossing the “T” of the Japanese naval force, and winning a decisive victory on the Surigao Straights. Leyte is considered the last of the great naval battles. After Leyte, Mr. Whedbee also participated in the Battle of Iwo Jima, and left the Marine Corps as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1946.
During the war, Mr. Whedbee met his future wife, Grace Miller, when he would rent a horse from her and they would fox hunt together while he was on leave. Later in life, he would poke fun at himself saying that, even though he once fell off the horse a half-dozen times in one day when he was first learning, he sure wasn’t going to quit in front of his fiancée. They were married in 1947 and eventually settled at Shawan, Mrs. Whedbee’s family home.
Mr. Whedbee began his business career as a security analyst at MacKubbin Legg, and in 1948 began to work for the First National Bank of Maryland. He eventually retired from First National in 1973 as Senior Vice-President and Chief Loan Officer. Throughout his life, he participated in a number of civic activities. He served as president of The Children’s Hospital, was on the boards of the National Conference of Christians and Jews, the Maryland Children’s Aid Society, the Baltimore Urban Coalition, and the Central Savings Bank.
Mr. Whedbee left the business world in the late 1970’s so he could spend the later part of his life focusing on three great loves—his wife, his love of the outdoor life on the farm, and his spiritual development. Until her death in 1986, Mr. and Mrs. Whedbee were often travelling together or working side-by-side in the family orchard business. A devout Catholic, Mr. Whedbee, was a long-term member of St. Joseph’s Parish in Texas, Maryland, where he performed a great deal of volunteer work. He also served as a chaplain at Stella Maris Hospice. He also loved going on retreats to a Dominican monastery in Buffalo, NY, or to St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, MA where his nephew was a Trappist monk.