Walt Mather, Colonel, Corps of Engineers, was laid to rest at his beloved West Point on 5 May 2008, having led a wonderful life for over 89 and a half years, exactly nine years to the day his wife Marian was buried there, in a simple graveside Episcopal service, attended, as he wished, by his extended family of 24 and a full military honor guard.
Walter Edward Mather was born in New York City on 30 Jun 1918, the first child and only son of Charles W. Mather and Rose Harburger Mather. He attended NYC schools and graduated from Morris H.S. in 1935. He was a member of his school’s track team and editor-in-chief of the school year book.
At West Point, Walt had little trouble with academics. He was an academic coach for all four years, a member of the Academy debate team, the Howitzer staff, and, as a first classman, Editor-in-Chief of the Howitzer.
On 9 Jul 1941, he was married in the Cadet Chapel to Marian Enid Jackson of Jersey City, NJ, whom he had known as a child and who had been his cadet drag for the previous three years. Thus began a life-long, happy marriage, blessed with four children: Joan, Walter, Jr., Carol, and Bill, all healthy, intelligent, and well adjusted, blessing Walt and Marian with ten grandchildren.
Walt's first assignment as an Army officer was in Hawaii as commander of Company A, 34th Engineer Regiment, a newly formed unit. Then came the war, and Walt’s regiment was instrumental in helping reconstruct the damage on Oahu. On 24 Oct 1942, daughter Joan was born; seven days later, seventeen months after graduation, he was promoted to captain and transferred to Ft. Leonard Wood to train new engineer soldiers. Shortly thereafter, and against his written protest, he was reassigned to West Point as an instructor in the English department, serving until 1946. It was at West Point that Walter, Jr., was born and christened in the Cadet Chapel by COL Wheat.
In 1946, Walt was assigned to OMGUS in Berlin, working for the man he considered the most outstanding officer he ever knew, GEN Lucius D. Clay. He was designated as the U.S. Secretary of the Bipartite Secretariat, the staff agency established to coordinate the economic fusion of the British and U.S. zones of Germany, the governing body of which was composed of the U.S. and U.K. Military governors, GEN Clay and General Sir Brian Robertson. It was during the Berlin blockade that Carol Elizabeth was born.
In 1949 Walt was reassigned to Harvard University as a graduate student in Engineering. He, Midge, and the three children flew out of Berlin in C-47s which had just off-loaded food and fuel for the people of Berlin.
Next came a three year tour as assistant executive to a series of Assistant Secretaries of the Army; in 1951, Walt was promoted to lieutenant colonel and in 1953, Bill was born at Ft. Belvoir, the last of the children.
Korea came next, with command of the 79th Engineer Battalion through the end of the war and into the reconstruction phase. The battalion’s principal responsibility was rebuilding Yongson, headquarters of Eighth Army. The family rejoined Walt in Okinawa in 1954, a short, pleasant tour, followed by the Armed Forces StaffCollege in Norfolk and assignment to the Huntington, WV District Office of the Corps of Engineers. Came 1958 and assignment to the NATO headquarters at Verona, Italy, after six months at the Army Language School. Walt was charged with designing and testing the various NATO exercises in which LANDSOUTH participated. His Italian became good enough to give briefings in Italian to visiting dignitaries.
In 1961,Walt was selected for colonel and command of the 937th Engineer Group (Combat) at Ft. Campbell, KY. This one year tour was exhilarating, hardworking, and most rewarding. Walt next was assigned to the faculty at the Armed Forces Staff College, after which he moved to Saigon as Chief of the Construction Management Division in MACV serving during 1966–67. In 1967 it was back to Ft. Belvoir as director of the Military Technology Directorate of the newly created Institute for Land Combat, organized to provide an in-house systems analysis capability. Walt retired in July 1969 at Ft. Belvoir, the ceremony taking place only a few hundred yards from where he and his engineer classmates had reported in 1941.
In 1970, Walt accepted the position of executive director of the West Piedmont Planning District of Virginia, one of the 22 areas into which the state was divided for regional planning purposes. In 1975, Walt retired for the second time, and he and Midge moved to Virginia Beach. There he was active in AUSA, TROA, the local West Point Society, the vestry of his church and the Kiwanis Club of Virginia.
In preparation for the 50th anniversary of the graduation of the Class of 1941, Walt was asked to write the Class History for the 50th Yearbook. Starting in 1989 and continuing until 1990, Walt spend countless hours on research, correspondence with classmates, and the actual writing of what he considered a labor of love. Of all his efforts in retirement, this history of a unique class gave him the greatest sense of accomplishment.
The retirement years of the 1970s and 1980s were good for Walt and Midge, punctuated by frequent family reunions of four children and then nine grandchildren, the blessings of a good and happy marriage.
In the mid-nineties they left for retirement home life, briefly in Williamsburg, VA, and ultimately in Jacksonville, FL, at Fleet Landing in 1997. Midge died there in April 1999, an irreplaceable loss to Walt and the family. Walt remained active in a variety of activities—the Computer Club, Sailing Club, and Resident’s Council and kept the Class of 1941 informed as the Class scribe, voluntarily relinquishing that duty in December 2007. He died peacefully on 16 Apr 2008, having had all four of his children with him the last five days of his life. As the Alma Mater’s third verse begins, “And when our work is done, Our course on earth is run, May it be said, ‘Well done!’ Be thou at peace.”
Well done, Walt.
—Son, Walt Mather, Jr. ’67.
- Mr. Harold P. Clark
- Class of 1941