I had thought to write about the old year and the new year and be positive and hopeful which is really not easy with the earth sort of staggering along, running near empty. Sorry, but most days that’s how it feels to me.
And for several days after Walter Andrew died in this darkest time of year, positive and hopeful thoughts did not come to mind at all. However, in a strange way this morning, I realize that Walter’s life was so affirming and what he left behind is so positive, that I’ve moved on from grieving and feel a bit hopeful.
First of all, Walter’s extended family is remarkable and being with them is a lot like being with him. They are friendly, inquisitive and caring men and women. That’s a great legacy if you can manage it — wonderful kids who now impact the world in a good way. Walter and Judy’s children took time out of their lives when Walter received his diagnosis of brain cancer and came here to spend time with him. His health was still good enough to enjoy having them here and one afternoon he insisted on coming down to the tennis courts with his daughter, Sarah, to watch her play. He went to a girl’s basketball game shortly before he died because he was so proud of the team and always loved to watch them play. And he briefly appeared with his wife, Judy, wearing wigs (Walter’s was pink and curly) at Lee’s opening at the Gathering Grounds on December 4. He died nine days later. The cliched expression, “an indomitable spirit” is so appropriate that I can’t think of a better way to say it.
In Port Townsend, Washington, where I used to live, there were twins, Meg and Julia. When I told them we were moving to Patagonia, they gasped and then clapped and hugged each other and then hugged me and finally told me that “Uncle Walter” lived here. The “uncle” part was an affectionate term — Walter had known their mother for many years and always stayed in touch, encouraging them to develop their many talents. They told Walter that I was moving here, and he called me as I was driving down to invite me to write for the paper. He said he knew I would quickly be scooped up by other non-profits here if he didn’t get his foot in the door. I was surprised that there was such a aggressive person in this small town, and then I moved here and got to know him and realized that his ability to jump right into a topic that interested him, or to ruthlessly pursue an idea — was real, as were other traits: generosity, intelligence, honesty, great warmth, humor, and most of all, a deep love of Patagonia.
The standards he set for this paper were lofty. He always hoped to cajole and coerce people into seeing the importance of such things as education, sports, youth, history, business, art and getting along with one another. He seemed to know everyone, and always sought them out to share a laugh, ask questions, give opinions. He was a great news gatherer because he was a good listener.
The town has lost someone who deeply believed in building community. Walter’s concern for affordable housing, the museum, the youth center, the sports’ teams, and so many families here in town were deep-seated. It’s this passion and hope that I will always remember.