Remembering Walt

January 1, 2014

Rachel Mendell

Just about everybody in Galion knew Walt Williams. That’s because he never knew a stranger. Everyone was his friend. He was always happy to see and talk to people. He was a prolific writer, photographer, journalist, magician, prankster and historian.

My first memory of Walt was a few months after I had started working at the Galion Inquirer back in 2004 and had just been asked to take over the Galion City Schools beat. I was nervous about it because of all the controversy at that time. My publisher had told me I would be fine if I just wrote the facts like I always did. One day soon after I was walking out to my car and there was Walt in his big white sedan calling to me. I walked over and he shook my hand and introduced himself. Then he said he had been following my stories and that I was a good writer. I was surprised (not getting compliments on my writing before) and thanked him - My First Fan.

Since then he continued to follow my writing and shared his writing with me. I remember once at a book signing of his at the Galion Public Library he invited me to take a look at the contents of his cavernous trunk. There were all his books that he had published. He invited me to chose whichever ones I had not read before. Thus began my Williams collection.

His books were unique, honest, and fun to read. He researched his books ahead of time and knew how to weave facts into them in an interesting manner. I had the honor of visiting him at his home occasionally and even retyping one of his books for publication. He once showed me all his newspaper clippings from his long career as a magician, but he never showed me how to do any of his tricks.

Walt knew how to create projects and see them through to the end. He was proud of his work, but unassuming. He wrote like he talked so that when I read one of his books it was as if he were reading it out loud to me.

Walt continued to visit me here at the paper. His last visit was a few months ago and I noted that he was no longer able to drive. This saddened me because I knew how he loved his independence, yet he continued to do as much as he could, sending me news from his church and reminding me by mail of happenings the newspaper should know about.

I am saddened at his passing as many of us are. Walt will be missed, especially on Memorial Day as he sat in his special seat of honor: A Veteran of Veterans.

Walt’s books are in the Galion Public Library. Read one if you never have before. In them you will hear his humor, his honesty and his courage.

By the way, there is a story in one of his books about the tunnel he discovered that led from Brownella Cottage to Grace Episcopal Church. Once, at the Off Center Cafe, I asked him if that tunnel really existed. He laughed and said “no.” But a year or so later when I got to see the cottage basement I was stunned to see a carved out space leading to somewhere, but it was too dark to see. “Hmm,” I thought, “Maybe there is a tunnel after all.” Who knows?

Walt used to pull my leg a lot.