Walter Cronkite, 1916 - 2009

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Walter Cronkite was a valued member of the Chapman School of Seamanship Board of Trustees during the period 1977 – 1984. He thoroughly enjoyed sailing, spending many hours aboard his yacht Wyntje on the waters off Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts.

Walter visited the Stuart, Florida area while gathering material for his excellent coffee table book, South By Southeast, which he co-authored with Ray Ellis. While here he visited with my late husband Glen Castle and me over lunch at Frances Langford's Outrigger restaurant. We were very impressed by his warm, friendly manner and interest in all things nautical.

Notified of Glen's losing battle with cancer in 1983, Walter phoned him at our home in Palm City to offer his encouragement and blessing which pleased Glen very much. Glen died less than two weeks later. The following year, Walter stepped down from his Trustee position to more fully enjoy his retirement from CBS. In honor of his service, my new husband Roger Field and I presented Walter a plaque at his CBS office in New York City accompanied by another Trustee at the time, Hugh Downs. Hugh was also a sailor and close friend of Cronkite.

After the plaque presentation Walter treated us to lunch at the Russian Tea Room, a former landmark New York restaurant. On our way there in a CBS limousine, the two famed journalists discussed what the U.S. should do about a Soviet freighter carrying ICBM missiles off the coast of Central America. Walter showed obvious concern but was uncertain as to any action we might take. Hugh simply said: "Don't worry, Walter. The 101st Airborne can take them out in less than an hour!” Although said in jest, it seemed to reflect a difference of view between the respected rival news anchors.

When we arrived at the restaurant, we were ushered immediately to a table on the right just inside the dining room which was permanently reserved for Cronkite. Many celebrities passed by the table after we arrived. One was the comic actress Ruth Gordon, who looked at Roger and me and said: "Who are these people, Walter?”

As so many people have said in the days since his passing, Walter Cronkite was a highly regarded journalist and will long be remembered by all who knew him.

Jennifer Castle Field,