On the day Walter Adams Stovall, Jr. was born, August 30, 1922, Babe Ruth was thrown out of a New York Yankees baseball game for his fifth time. By the time Walter reached age 12, Ruth retired in 1935 on June 2. Walter died on June 2, 2014.
Affectionately known as “The Godfather of Houston Street” by many in downtown San Antonio, the World War II veteran was the consummate gentleman to everyone he encountered.
I had the honor of first crossing paths with Walter in 2008. As residents of the Majestic Towers above the beautiful Majestic Theater, we would sit across the street outside the Gunther Hotel several times almost every day. It was a privilege to listen to his war stories, learn about his philosophies and takes on a life that he abundantly lived for almost 92 years.
The first thing I noticed about Walter was his debonair manner. It was not unusual for Walter, when he recognized a beautiful lady walking his direction, to rise up stylishly out of his chair to greet her. At least a half dozen times a day he would gently reach for a lady’s hand, elegantly bow his head and kiss her fingers.
Walter became something of a surrogate and noble grandfather to me. He gave advice and so eloquently share stories with such moving messages, it was like I was there as he relived much of it.
Most important, we became extraordinary good friends. Once, during a poignant moment of revealing some horrors he dealt with and witnessed in World War II, with tears in our eyes, Walter told me he loved me. We sat silent together for several minutes until we could both regroup.
Walter Stovall was preceded in death by his parents, father Walter Adam Stovall, Sr. and mother Francis Eva Stovall Solors. He was born in Houston, TX on August 30, 1922 but vividly remembered his family travelling to San Antonio often while his father, a surveyor, plotted the city.
About 16 years ago, on a trip to San Antonio from his home in Fort Worth, Walter stopped by a shop along the San Antonio River.
“As soon as I saw Kathy, I was immediately attracted to her beauty and smile,” Walter recalled. It was near Valentine’s Day, and upon learning Kathy had not received a Valentine’s card, he promptly arranged to have flowers and a card sent to her.
“I asked her out and we went to dinner,” Walter lit up. “My life suddenly got better and we never looked back.”
Walter and Kathy married in a little church in Castroville, just 30 minutes west of San Antonio, and the couple would often spend occasional weekends there together.
Walter's services will be held at Fort Sam Houston Cemetery on Thursday, June 5, at 10 a.m.
My favorite story he shared about World War II was when C-47's airplanes dropped 1,999 paratroopers, including Walter, and 1,292 bundles of supplies on a target area of little more than one square mile in the Philippines in 1945. Fighting was fierce and it was necessary to get U.S. reinforcements near Tagaytay Ridge near Manila.
Walter’s company was among the first 915 paratroopers flown in forty-eight Douglas C-47s of the 317th Troop Carrier Group.
“There was not much else I could do but wait until they told us to jump, so when they told me to jump, I jumped,” laughed Walter. “I couldn’t see anything. Just went down.”
“Really all you can do is wait and go down and listen for firing,” Walter’s face turned serious. “But we didn’t know where it was coming from or who was shooting at who.”
“It didn’t take us long after we landed to gather our supplies and regroup,” Walter recalls. “We were dropped early in the morning, as we had left at night.”
“The ridge itself was an open space some two thousand yards long and four thousand yards wide, plowed in places, and had been mostly cleared of Japanese troops by local Filipino guerrillas.”
“The entire regiment was assembled within five hours of the first lift landing in the drop zone,” the official record states. ”After clearing the ridge of any remaining Japanese defenders, the division began to advance towards Manila, reaching the Paranaque River by 21:00 on 3 February and encountering the beginning of the Genko Line, a major Japanese defensive belt that stretched along the southern edge of Manila.”
The slide show photos above reveal some of the most commemorative thoughts and memories of Walter Stovall.