"This Is The Last Of 'Em"
(The above title comes from the words my husband spoke last night)
This past week, we lost Walt, our last close friend who was a member of “The Greatest Generation.” In many ways, Walt was a second father to both my husband and me.
The following is an excerpt from Walt’s obituary:
“Born in Kentucky…[h]e served in the U.S. Army from 1941 until 1945 as a Sergeant Major. After military service, he was a budget analyst for the USDA for 37 years. He was an avid sportsman in hunting, fishing and competition skeet shooting. He was lifetime member of the NRA. His wife…preceded him in death. He is survived by his son…,several grandchildren, two sisters…”Walt’s obituary doesn’t begin to communicate what a wonderful person he was! Obituaries never do. As part of the American death-ritual, they are impersonal and formulaic.
Take the phrase “budget analyst.” If you asked Walt what he did at the USDA, he’d invariably reply, “I was in charge of SWAGS. Silly wild-ass guesses. In other words, I was a statistician.” Walt knew thousands of one-liners and jokes, and he was the life of every party he attended. Nothing in the obituary communicates how alive he was.
Or take this phrase: “an avid sportsman in hunting, fishing and competition skeet shooting.” Those words don’t begin to communicate how superior a sportsman Walt was. He kept our freezer stocked with venison, fowl, and fish. And he provided the recipes, too, so that I could cook up a savory feast. As for competition skeet shooting, I’ve never seen a better shot. Well into his 80s, Walt was a force to be reckoned with at the range as he defeated competitors many years his junior. He was a modern Daniel Boone!
My husband and I had four friends who were members of “The Greatest Generation”: Earl, Charlie, Danny, and Walt—all of them with whom we made acquaintance through my husband’s work and coin business. We lost Earl to multiple sclerosis, Charlie to a heart attack, Danny to liver cancer, and now Walt to complications following surgery for gall-bladder excision and hernia repair. Those four friends were both Republicans and Democrats. What they shared was their unabashed patriotism and the highest sense of integrity. We’ll never again have friends like that group of four.
As I wrote in another tribute,
“We're going to miss those chats around the kitchen table—and Walt's wonderful one-liners. He could always make us smile.The next few days will be devoted to the funeral rites for a dear friend. This Fourth of July will be the first in some three decades without Walt.
“Walt is the last of our friends from ‘The Greatest Generation,’ and his passing is the end of an era for us on a personal level. We'll miss him!”