Saturday, October 1, 2022

Obituary: Former Mayor Susan Whelchel

Susan Slade Whelchel, 77, passed away peacefully surrounded by her family on August 5, 2022 after battling Alzheimer’s Disease. She was born the youngest daughter on August 13, 1944 to Flora and Tom Slade in Baxley, Georgia. Her siblings (predeceased) were Tom Slade, Joanne Sawyer, and Flo O’Brien. She soon moved to Starke, Florida where she graduated from Bradford County High School. She graduated from Jacksonville University with a degree in political science and did post graduate work at Florida Atlantic University and Nova Southeastern University. While in Jacksonville, she met her husband, John Whelchel and married in 1968. They started their family in Sanford, Florida and ultimately relocated to Boca Raton, Florida in 1978.

Susan was a strong believer in education. She enjoyed a 30-year teaching career which culminated at Boca Raton High School. Susan was heavily involved in the Boca Raton community though non-profits and other organizations. One that was very near and dear to her heart was the Junior League of Boca Raton where she was named Woman Volunteer of the year in 2016. Her Jr. League service and love of the community lead her into Boca Raton politics which began in 1995. Susan was elected to the Boca Raton City Council and served three terms where she served as Deputy Mayor and was Vice-Chairman of the Community Redevelopment Agency. Susan was appointed by then-Governor Jeb Bush, to a two-year term on the Palm Beach County School Board, where she served with distinction and successfully enabled a renewed focus and commitment to our local schools. Susan was most proud of her work in helping to establish the Don Estridge Middle School, a high-tech choice public school.  Susan was elected Mayor of Boca Raton in 2008 and was re-elected and served a second term. Being term limited, Susan retired from politics in 2014.

One of Susan’s trademark initiatives was to create a world class community. She had a vision to bring quality education, excellent medical facilities, higher learning opportunities, adequate recreational facilities, public parks and nature centers to the city. She helped Boca achieve its goal in 2015 when Boca Raton was named the 11th best city in the country. 

Susan was an active and dedicated volunteer for over 30 years. In addition to her public service as City Council Member and Mayor, Susan spent thousands of hours volunteering in over 30 volunteer organizations.

Susan put Jesus and family first. She was a long-time member and leader at Grace Community Church. She served as a deacon and elder and served on various committees within the church. Like her sisters, Joanne and Flora, she believed life was an amazing journey and participated passionately in everything that held her interest. As a child she was an accomplished water skier and had a love of horses.  She was a member Delta Delta Delta sorority at Jacksonville University. Susan was a competitive tennis player at Boca Del Mar, Boca Bath and Tennis, and Royal Palm Country Club. She loved books, learning, had a love for dogs, was a marathon bridge player, enjoyed her investment “Blush Group”, and played golf to keep in line with her husband, John’s passion. She enjoyed entertaining and hosting numerous parties.  You could always count on Susan to be the first on and the last one off the dance floor. She was an involved and tenacious mother, loving grandmother, devoted daughter and wife. She adored her 4 children and 10 grandchildren and always insisted on yearly family vacations, matching PJ’s on Christmas Eve, and balloons at every birthday party.  

Susan is survived by her loving husband of 52 years, John, her four children, Joanne Jackson and her husband Tracey, Jay Whelchel and his wife Melissa, her son Matthew Whelchel and his wife Kimmie, her daughter Kristy Hartofilis and her husband Nick, her grandchildren Haley, Davis, Makayla, Mary, Jack, Maddie, Caroline, Vivi, Nick, Mira, 10 nieces and nephews and an abundance of very special friends.

Visitation at Babione Funeral Home, 1100 North Federal Highway, Boca Raton, Florida, 33432 on Wednesday, August 10, 2022 from 4:00 – 6:00. Funeral services will be held at 4 o’clock in the afternoon on Thursday, August 11, 2022 at Grace Community Church, 600 West Camino Real, Boca Raton, Florida, 33486 with Pastor Jason Whitener officiating.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in her memory to Grace Community Church, Alzheimer’s Community Care or Louis and Anne Green Memory and Wellness Center.

Obituary submitted by family

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