Walter was a Railsplitter from the 334th and served with division HQ as the primary Division artist. His work adorned the Railsplitter Paper as well as the Division history books, including "The 84th Division in The Battle of Germany" by Theodore Draper.
Walter was an army cohort of my dad's which made our acquaintance for the last several years very special to me.
Along with his wonderful and very supportive wife Jean, his memory was tack sharp, his wit and humor terrific, his art work that spanned many decades was highly esteemed, he was well appreciated as an art teacher, so generous with his knowledge, and he was regarded all around as a great guy, and they were a great couple.
A few years ago, a man by the name of Baker Mitchell contacted me because he had just purchased many of Walter's original WWII paintings from an auction. Walter created those paintings to adorn the cover and pages of the Division History book for Viking Press, but had since lost knowledge of his original paintings' whereabouts. Some 60 years plus later, Baker Mitchell discovers them. Rather than letting the paintings 'disappear' away through an auction, Baker graciously purchased the whole lot to keep this part of Railsplitter history intact.
Of those paintings Baker 'saved' was the portrait of my own dad that was used on the dust jacket cover and interior of the Division History book! And then Baker offered me the high resolution digital scan of that painting, with which I can make near perfect renditions. And all approved by Walter too!
Sometimes words alone can not come close to describing truly wonderful moments, and this is one of them. I am still in awe and so grateful to both of these gentlemen!.
When I visited the Chapmans at their Phoenix summer home, or called them on the phone many times over the years, they were ALWAYS in good spirit and responsive. We generally all talked a long time, about everything. Occasionally Walter mentioned WWII memories, at times relating stories that he had never told anyone before.
I will just relay one. Walter, then about 98, recalled a moment while in Krefeld, Germany while waiting at the Rhine R. before the crossing (about 65 years prior!). Walter was designing a painting for the Division's historical moments, but was having trouble with the art. There was something challenging about the composition, how to express an idea effectively. At that moment, General Bolling walked in the door and suggested a change for Walter to make. Being a bit grumpy and frustrated, and not thinking rationally, Walt snapped at the General to mind his own business!
"Oh no", Walter reflected, that was really thoughtless, "stupid" and could easily land him in a lot of trouble! Fortunately, General Bolling simply took a deep breath and walked away. Walter never made that mistake again, plus that episode gives us all a bit of understanding about General Bolling's own character aside from what we can gather from the history books.
Anyway, rather than "sadness" to describe Walter's passing, I am confident Walter would much appreciate it if we all thought of him with memories of great happiness! So that's the way it will be for me. So much credit goes to him for many reasons, and to all the other Railsplitters who served so proudly for our country.
This board is dedicated to the memory of CAPTAIN LEONARD REED CARPENTER, Company Commander, November 19, 1944 - March 27, 1945.
BOARD HOST: Allan W. Howerton (E-mail: Allanhowerton@aol.com)