Archive for the Tributes Category

Walter Suthern

Posted in Tributes on April 5, 2009 by philthink

In November of 2008, my great grandfather, Walter Suthern passed away. I made a point while traveling in 2007, to visit him in Manchester. I headed up there on a roadtrip with the Dynamic Dudes, and captured video of an afternoon tea session. I’ve had this footage for a while, and have put something together to show you the person Walter was before he died.

He lifts anybody’s spirit when around him. I asked him the secret to the longevity of his life, “Helping people out. That’s always been my pleasure.” He says it so plainly, with the undertone of “isn’t it obvious?”

Below is what I wrote on the way back from Manchester after our second visit together in December of 2008.

*****
In a place of such monotony, it must be so hard to keep a mind healthy. And yet, when the mind deteriorates, challenging circumstances are more troubling, to already troubled minds.

The more I speak with Walter, the more I get a sense of age and the intricate workings of the mind. I guess its a sell for longevity in life: fill your brain with as many memories as possible so that there’s always something else to say, something else to pass along.

“That’s life”, he remarks when I comment of the luck of good genes, such as ours. He enjoys a laugh and then tells me about Rose, who we had met during our previous visit in April 2007. She was also from a family of good genes, having passed away just two weeks ago. She was 102.

Walter admired her spirit. “She kept on going.”
And it is this admiration that I find so inspiring. Here is a man at 99 years old, admiring those who, like himself, have such a strong will to live.

Still a charmer in his old age, he mentions how he broke down a woman who refused, at first, to speak with him. He leans in, motioning around the room with his left hand, “There’s always one that’s awkward, but I kept at her, and now she talks to me, yes.” And with that, he leans back in his chair, genuinely satisfied at the accomplishment of getting this woman to open up. At no point should we stop talking, if all but a whisper.

You can see that his knee is bothering him more but he still insists on his constitutionals. “I’ll sneak out that door if I have to.” he says with no ounce of concern on his face. Damn right.

He recounts his involvement in history, considering his luck to be there, and then takes the word “luck” back.

“A lot of people hear about the assassination of Mussolini…I was there. I was there, when they shot her [Clara Petacci].” He recounts how they drove them off to the forest to face their punishment.

At the time of this writing, there is civil unrest in Pakistan. Benazir Bhutto has just been assassinated. I can’t help but think of the situation in Pakistan, and the potential chaos that may result in that region. How many Pakistani’s will be saying similar things in their old age. “I was there when Bhutto was shot.”

It gives me such pride to know a man such as Walter, and to hold any, if some, similar characteristics and beliefs. The secret to a long life and his advice on what it takes to be happy in life, is to help people out. “If anybody needs me, I’m there for them.”

Rest in Peace, Walter Suthern.

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