Wally was a dear friend, a mentor and a wonderful human being.
In a world filled with suffering, Wally lived compassionately. In a world awash in apathy and complacency, Wally lived with commitment. And in a world too often marked by the cowardice of inaction, Wally consistently acted with courage.
These lines from Shakespeare come to mind when I think about Wally:
His life was gentle; and the elements
So mixed in him that Nature might stand up
And say to all the world ‘This was a man!’
Wally was true and loyal in his friendships, and kind and generous to all who knew him. He had an unshakable instinct for fairness and decency and cared deeply about the plight of those less fortunate than himself. He was constantly looking for ways in which he could help make life better for those in need, and his many successes were victories for our community and for humanity.
Wally would have been 86 this week. He was born in the small town of Wausau, Wisconsin in 1917. Much of his youth was spent with the great depression as a backdrop, something that left a lasting impression on him. In 1937, at the age of 20, Wally graduated with a degree in journalism from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He was proud of having served as editor of the school newspaper.
After graduating, Wally went on to take jobs in advertising. This took him throughout Latin America, where he met, among others, the great Mexican muralist Diego Rivera and artist Frida Kahlo.
Wally joined the army in 1940 and was assigned to the Corps of Engineers. He was among those who landed at Normandy and fought his way across France, earning the Bronze Star and seven battle stars. He was there at the liberation of Paris and was among the first American soldiers to enter the concentration camp at Buchenwald and see first-hand this terrible human tragedy. Wally’s experience in war, including the death of a younger brother, deepened his lifelong commitment to peace.
After the war, Wally returned to his career in advertising, rising to become the managing director of Revlon International in Europe. In 1971, Wally retired to Santa Barbara with his wife Kay, but it was to prove a short retirement. He soon became active as a stockbroker and began helping community organizations.
Wally believed that a person should spend the first half of their adult life accumulating resources to support one’s family, and the second half giving back to the community and the world. It was Santa Barbara’s great gain that the second half of Wally’s life was lived here.
Wally was an extraordinary leader and took pride in raising funds to support worthy causes in which he believed. The number of organizations he helped to achieve their goals is too numerous to list, but among these groups were the Boys and Girls Clubs of Santa Barbara, United Way, the Lobero Theater Foundation, the Santa Barbara Symphony, Sansum Research Institute, Santa Barbara City College, All Saints by the Sea Episcopal Church, and the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.
Wally was a humble man who never sought recognition for himself, but for his efforts, he received many awards. These included a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Santa Barbara News Press, a Community Service Award from the Anti-Defamation League, and a Community Hero Award from Sansum Clinic.
Wally and I, along with Frank Kelly and Charles Jamison, founded the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation in 1982. Wally’s help was critical to getting our fledgling organization off the ground, and to its continued success for the past 20 years. Wally wanted to build a world in which young people would not have to experience what he did in war.
Until his stroke in 1998, Wally and I often took walks together. He had a keen and inquiring mind and enjoyed staying abreast of world affairs. He celebrated the fall of the Berlin Wall, the breakup of the former Soviet Union, the end of Apartheid in South Africa, and the possibilities that these events appeared to open for the future.
Wally was a dear friend. We grieved with him when his beloved Kay died in 1991, and we rejoiced with him when he found happiness and love again and married Ursula in 1993. One of the great honors of my life was to be Wally’s best man when he married Ursula.
Wally’s stroke was debilitating, but with characteristic courage he struggled back from the brink of death and always retained his sense of humor and proportion.
Wally was a realist who never lost his optimism, and he was committed to making his optimism about our world realistic. He persistently strove to leave the world a better place than he found it. In this, he did everything humanly possible to succeed.
Wally was a loving husband and father, a dedicated community leader, and a wise elder. Wally, dear friend, I will miss your sage advice, your humor and your solid decency, but you live on in your myriad of good works and in our hearts.
September 19, 2003
*David Krieger is the president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (www.wagingpeace.org). He is the editor of Hope in a Dark Time (Capra Press, 2003).