Walt was born on February 22, 1929 in Maywood,California. He was the third son of Earnest and Anna Schlenz. Only sister, Esther, followed, then last, but definitely not least, came baby brother John. Walt loved music, particularly singing. He had a brief foray into the spotlight when he starred in his eighth-grade musical. In high school he demonstrated an ability to fix most things mechanical and continued with his love of music by participation in El Monte High School’s prestigious accapella choir. At 18 he graduated then married his high school sweetheart,Neva, four months later.
Walt became a father at 19 and by 24 had three children, Terrill, Connie and Paul. As a young parent he made a living driving trucks, driving taxi cabs, and working for the phone company. He worked for the L.A. Times for 6 years but longed to work outdoors.
When the opportunity came to work at the Idyllwild Pines Camp in Idyllwild,CA he took the leap and moved his family to the mountain community in 1963. Finally a job he loved and one that utilized his many skills and talents. Walt served the community as a volunteer fire fighter, EMT, and finally as a fire commissioner. He loved helping others and was a resource person to many of his friends and acquaintances. Also while in Idyllwild he was instrumental in starting the Chapel In The Pines along with his long-time-friend, Rev. Toby Totten.
When Walt heard about Cottonwood, CA, he and Neva started making plans to retire there. He managed to convince his brother John to relocate also. His retirement would not have been complete without his best buddy Andy Elmore, so he sold him on the merits of northern California as well. In 1993, he made his home in Cottonwood in a unique house built with his own hands. He loved the wide-open spaces and created his own 20 acre “playground.” He loved to show people his man cave shop which was actually quite cavernous. Other features he loved were his catfish pond, helipad, and the network of roads he graded with his beloved tractor. Being part of the design and construction of the Bowman Church was the highlight of his Cottonwood years. He made many wonderful friends and loved his church family and neighbors.
Nothing short of a catastrophic event would have convinced Walt to leave paradise and move back to southern CA. Unfortunately that came in the form of a diagnosis of terminal cancer in March of this year. His last wish was to see Neva, his partner of 65 years, settled in their new home next to son, Paul. God in His mercy granted him this time. Walt left his earthly home on July 18th for Heaven knowing that Neva would be looked after and loved by their three children, eight grand children, and 17 great-grand children.
Walt touched many lives and left a legacy that will continue on. He will be missed.