WALTER S WHERELL: My GO TO MAN
By Elsa R. Wasserman
You may have seen him strolling down 16 de Septiembre after his volunteer stint at LCS, stopping every few steps to acknowledge a former student or someone he had just met. Possibly you spotted him at the Balneario in San Juan Cosala catching up on his reading. Once he jumped out of my pantry closet with a pot cover on his head. You may see him walking briskly with his two schnauzers in the Chapala Haciendas where he has lived these past ten years.
Introducing Walter, Walt, or Waltito Wherell. Wherever you spot him you can’t miss his warm smile and sparkling blue-green eyes. Always dressed meticulously, trousers having a sharp crease and a colorful shirt. In the cool weather there is always a sweater around his shoulders in a youthful style. His footware is always appropriate.
I was introduced to him at the beginning of my first full-time year, eight years ago, here in Ajijic. I had decided that I would have to drive my car here from Massachusetts. I wondered if I could do the trip alone. Walt said, “No problem, fly me up and we’ll drive back together.” I was speechless. How could someone I had known for such a little time make an offer like this? Of course I accepted his offer.
Over the years I have watched, and sometimes participated, in his kindness to people in need of anything you can imagine, from bringing a friend back to Ajijic to die, taking care of an aging and ill friend, bringing together groups of people who he thinks will enjoy meeting each other, organizing a party to go to a new restaurant, to inviting friends to his home for an amazing slice of grilled lamb. He is a happening guy. Want to visit another part of Mexico or travel around Europe? Easy, “We’ll rent a house, split all the expenses, and a good time will be had by all. “ The only part of Mexico that Walt hasn’t visited is Durango. Why? He doesn’t know.
“One friend wrote of Walter’s loyalty to his friends, even taking about two hours to write down all of his favorite restaurants in Puerto Vallarta”. This may seem like a small thing, but multiply this by questions on everything from which credit cards don’t charge a foreign exchange rate, what is the best route to Zacatecas, how can I do my FM3 without an intermediary, what do I need to know about the culture here to show respect for the Mexicans?
Walt is the oldest of three boys brought up in a comfortable family with parents who represented both ends of the political spectrum. These differences opened the door to spirited dialogue and the importance of reaching out and learning about other universes. “Life is about reaching out and sharing the abundance we are given.” These lessons were made real by daily events such as the requirement to share a new bicycle with a neighbor.
Decisions had to be well thought out including both the benefits and the consequences not only for himself, but also for those around him. Now Walt is a master of research on any topic with the ability to crystallize massive amounts of information to an understandable few paragraphs.
Walter told me that his favorite 8th grade teacher admonished his students, “In life you always go forward. You can’t go back and change things.” This statement led Walter to analyze carefully, “What is it I need to understand to make this work?” The Ajijic community has benefitted from Walter’s participation in the Red Cross, The School for Special Needs, LCS to name a few.
Positivity, connectedness, sharing resources, reaching out, new adventures mixed in with a wry sense of humor are Walter’s watchwords. Friends are many, diverse, and cross-cultural. Walt’s sense of humor is contagious. When he was teaching ESL at the Wilkes Center he mixed up the Spanish words for cochina-pig and cocina-kitchen. The students thought that was hilarious and Walter laughed along with them.
As one friend wrote, ”He is the brother I never had, but even better, the ideal, ever present and discreet friend everyone would love to have.”
For more information about Lake Chapala visit: www.chapala.com