Emmette T. 'Tike' Whalen, 75
Emmette T. “Tike” Whalen died at the age of 75 on Sunday afternoon, Aug. 21, 2011, of pulmonary fibrosis. He was born in Butte, Montana, on Nov. 23, 1935, the first son of Emmette and Nellie (Crilley) Whalen, and was nicknamed by his father and known throughout his life as “Tike.”
Tike attended Boys’ Central and graduated in 1953, and when he could scrape enough dollars together to cover a semester of tuition, he would attend the University of Montana-Western in Dillon in the hopes of attaining a degree in teaching or art. Although he ran out of money and could not complete his college education, it was during his brief time in Dillon that he met his partner of nearly 50 years, Betty Carlson. Tike was shortly thereafter drafted into the U.S. Army, and having much time on his hands began writing letters to the girls back home. But, as Tike often explained, Betty was the only girl who wrote him back. Tike and Betty later married on Sept. 9, 1961.
Tike was an industrious and hard-working man, and although lacking a college degree, he had both street smarts and a knack for business. He began his life of industry at the young age of six, selling newspapers on the street corners of uptown Butte. Always one to keep one eye on work and the other eye open for a business opportunity, he would enter the bars and gambling halls of uptown Butte offering papers for sale but keeping one eye on the ground for fallen change until the proprietor would kick him out.
He became such a well-known business fixture that the business owners from the uptown streets from where he sold his papers nicknamed him the “Little Merchant.” This nickname followed him through his adult life after he established his own business, when one of his customers recognized him as the “Little Merchant” from so many years before.
While growing up, Tike was close to his grandmother and he would often help her on the family dairy ranch on Little Basin Creek Road. He spoke fondly of “Mrs. Whalen,” explaining that she was among the first class of Montana State College to graduate women, had raised five boys while running the Whalen Dairy, and was instrumental in writing Montana dairy legislation. Tike was therefore very proud to be able to purchase his grandmother’s ranch in the early 1970s, on which he built his home and raised his family. The family ranch has been in the Whalen family for more than 100 years.
Tike started in the tire business in his teen years by necessity. After getting flat tires on his many travels to the Whalen Ranch, and not having the money to pay for repairs, Tike approached a local tire owner offering to make his own repairs if he could use the owner’s equipment. The owner agreed, and after many flat tires and several opportunities to observe Tike’s skill and work ethic, the owner offered him a job.
Tike purchased OK Tire in 1961 and started his business in a small building on the corner of Arizona and Third Street. Although money was in short supply during the early years, his wife and partner, Betty, was supportive and learned to raise a family of young children on only $75 a week in order to allow the business to grow.
The business name was later changed to Whalen Tire, and the tire operation grew to a chain of tire stores doing business throughout the state of Montana, as well as in the states of Idaho and Washington. The tire business was Tike’s life, and he died as he lived, placing his last order for tires only hours before his death.
Tike was an extraordinary man of many accomplishments. Although “tough as nails” stubborn, determined and strong-willed, he was a man of his word and would never deny a friend in need. He was able to achieve business success on his own terms — with honesty and integrity. And it was through his tire business that his children were able to learn the value of hard work and industry. All of Tike’s children worked at the tire store. His oldest son, Tom, having started working at the tire store at the age of nine, is now honored to continue his father’s legacy.
Tike led by example, and strove to impart upon his children the knowledge he learned in his many years of hard work in the hope of making a better life for them and their families. Tike often told his children that if you can’t pay cash for something, you don’t need it; and when approached with a business opportunity, take advantage of the opportunity, but never take advantage of the person. In all his business deals, he would strive to treat the other person fairly, and was often known to negotiate paying an even higher price than what was offered because he didn’t think he was being charged enough.
In his “spare time,” Tike enjoyed farming and ranching, so much so that in his “golden retirement years” Tike limited his days at the tire store to only six days a week, purchased two more ranches and spent his evenings and weekends farming and ranching. He was looking forward to getting in better health so that he could put his new tractor to use.
Tike is survived by his wife, partner, and most ardent supporter, Betty. They would have celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on Sept. 9th of this year.
Tike is also survived by his four children, which include his son, Tom Whalen of Butte and Tom’s children, Ty, Whitnee and Shandelle; his daughter, Terri Nash and her husband, Mike of Dickinson, N.D., and their children, Paige, Scott, Tracy and Sean; his daughter, Tracy Barton and her husband, Mike of Spokane, Wash., and their children, Tanya and Tasha; and his daughter, Tamara Murock and her husband, Scott of Spokane, and their children, Miranda and Clayton. Tike is also survived by his sister-in-law, Judy Whalen of Butte; his sister, Betty Whalen of Helena; his brother, John Whalen of Billings; and his sister-in-law, Patty Cookson and her husband, Jack of Butte.
Tike was preceded in death by his parents, Emmette and Nellie Whalen, and his brother, Harry Whalen.
Tike’s family would like to give thanks to the many people who helped in Tike’s many life accomplishments, including his managers, employees, co-workers and friends. His family would also like to give special thanks to his long-time friend, Gary Harrington; his office manager of 40 years, Marcella Dallaserra; his assistant for 30 years, Colleen Smith; and to Dr. Pullman and his staff.
Visitation will be held just one block from the tire store at St. Joseph Catholic Church on Saturday, August 27, 2011, from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m. Mass of Christian burial will commence at 11 a.m. Interment will follow in Mount Moriah Cemetery. A luncheon in Tike’s honor will be held at the War Bonnet Inn following the services and interment.
Memorials in Tike’s memory may be made to Our Lady of the Rockies for the construction of the tram, and to the Paul Clark Home-McDonald’s Family Place.
Services have been entrusted to Wayrynen-Richards Funeral Home of Butte.
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Written on Friday, August 26, 2011 by Mike