Walt’s Life Started Early ...
By Rebecca Mahoney
Walter Williams is my neighbor and my friend. I got to know Walt a few years ago. He would drive around the neighborhood in his big white car, a perfect fit for his big wide smile and lanky frame. I’d be walking my laps, and he would stop the car to say hi. Through our brief mobile interactions, we discovered we shared a few commonalities; he’s a writer, and writing is my passion too. We also share the label of widowed. Both of us understand what it’s like to walk around with a precious part of your soul so far away from you. I’ve lived in the neighborhood for a long time, and it saddens me sometimes that we didn’t connect years ago. I missed out on meeting his soulmate, Lucy, and a lot of great stories that make up Walter’s daily life. Another good lesson in the importance of getting out there, extending ourselves and connecting with others.
Walt Williams turns 90 on July 9th. What a great month for this patriot and former soldier to have been born! He’s a former POW and survivor of WWII and I really don’t think I know a more patriotic person. He could have allowed his experiences to leave him bitter, but Walt’s humility and gratitude at the privilege of being a citizen of the United States of America, shines. He wrote a cathartic book about it instead called, “For You the War is Over.” His love of country and allegiance is one of many qualities I admire so much. It’s just one of many layers, that make up Walter Williams. The man has the curiosity of Mark Twain, the loyalty of a Cleveland Indians fan, the bright, quippy humor of Bill Cosby, and has had enough life experiences to fuel his own television mini-series. Having the same curious nature and sense of adventure, I was drawn to him from my first “Wednesday with Walt” which really turned into a marathon four hour gab session.
As a child he accompanied his grandfather, a physician, on house calls, sold magazines to Bishop Brown, cultivated his creativity by listening to stories on radio, married a real women (and lady) who didn’t just bring home the bacon; Lucy shot, skinned and prepared the rabbit all by herself, no help needed. What a lucky guy, and he knows it. I feel privileged to be able to hear Walt’s stories of the era he grew up in and I sit by his side, like an enthralled little kid, dreaming of a time before the internet, and so many of the modern conveniences we have today that seem to have stolen bits of kinship, teamwork, creativity, giving, selflessness, and the real, delicious juiciness of life.
Here are some more elusive things that you should know about him that probably wouldn’t show up on Walt Williams resume. He’s a magician and has traveled across the country, performing with his daughter. He served as International President of the International Brotherhood of Magicians and has unselfishly dedicated time to teaching the art of conjuring and sleight of hand to a number of budding magicians. He lost his best friend and love of his life a few years ago, but hasn’t allowed his grief to override his memories and gratitude for the full life they shared. He’s kept his heart open to family, friends, neighbors, and “adopted” daughters. He’s a very proud grandpa to an amazing and accomplished granddaughter. He says yes to everyone. I can’t tell you the number of times I have been there when folks have called for his help. He visited a young woman, confined to a nursing home for most of her young adult life, every single Sunday, until her recent death He makes a mean rhubarb crumble. He is devoted to his church and God. He vehemently believes in the personal freedoms our country was founded on. He’s curious about the paranormal and loves a good mystery. He has published several books, and really should have been a professional photographer or a photojournalist at the very least. Award winning artwork graces his living room walls. I think National Geographic would have gladly picked him up! Best of all, his daughter, who lives thousands of miles away, calls him every day, which speaks volumes for his parenting and how much he is loved. I could go on. But, as for all great men, well, there needs to be a little mystery for others to unravel.
Recently, Walt called me and said his writing muse had left him and he needed some direction. I knew that wasn’t the case, but that is how Walt is; polite; because in fact, it was the other way around. I needed some inspiration. So, we chatted, and I casually suggested he might write the stories he has been relaying to me, create his memoir, if for no one else for his beloved daughter, Carolyn to treasure someday. I was honored to see he has taken my advice. He started his memoir. The title… Walt’s Life Started Early.
This amazing man’s life needed to start early in order to pursue his endless curiosities and adventures. The world needs his kind of light to shine Happy Birthday, my dear friend. May your story continue for many more years and your epitaph read.…..
Walt’s Life Ended Late.