Waldemar (Walt) Louis Block Jr. was born August 29, 1923, in Chatham, N.Y. He died peacefully on Oct. 31, 2017, at age 94 after a long series of illnesses, all of which he fought courageously. He was the oldest child of Waldemar Ludwig Block Sr. and Rachel Tracy (Griswold) Block.
Walt was a teenager during the Great Depression, and this environment forged a character of self-sufficiency, survival, and service to others, traits which stayed with him his whole life, and for which he was well known.
Walt attended the New York State College for Teachers at Albany from 1942 to 1945, majoring in science. He then served stateside in the U.S. Army Air Force. He graduated from the University of Connecticut in 1950, with a B.A. in science and entomology. He received an M.S. in biology and education from Central Connecticut State University in 1963. He received grants from the National Science Foundation to study biology at Yale University in 1960 and to study physics at Wesleyan University in 1967.
Walt started his teaching career at Newington High School in 1951 as a biology teacher. He became science department head in the 1960s, and continued to teach biology, physics, and chemistry until his retirement in 1985. Walt also taught biology and pre-nursing classes at Greater Hartford Community College from 1969 to 1975 and 1987 to 1992. He taught an advanced class for gifted high school students sponsored by the University of Connecticut from 1971 to 1985. Walt was a member of the American Institute of Biological Sciences, the Entomological Society of America, the Connecticut Science Teachers Association, and a past president of the Newington Teachers’ Association.
Walt married Barbara Jean Carrier in August of 1946 while on leave from the service. After his discharge, they settled in the Carrier homestead in North Westchester, Conn. Walt worked for the C.H. Norton Paper Mill for several years, and also held jobs with the railroad and with some of the local farmers. Before embarking on his teaching career, Walt served as a forest entomologist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In 1953, Walt and Barbara moved to Newington, Conn., where they raised their two children, Tracy and Tom. Throughout his years in the school system, Walt worked a variety of summer jobs. His summers with a local carpenter taught him his carpentry skills. Using these skills, he built an addition on their Newington house, a home in the woods of Antrim, N.H., and a summer cottage in Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard, where his mother had settled. In Walt and Barbara’s retirement, they split their time between these houses. Walt was renowned for the maple syrup he made from trees tapped on his New Hampshire property.
Walt and Barbara traveled extensively in the U.S., the Caribbean, Europe, and Africa, making lifelong friends everywhere they went. They were avid square and round dancers, sometimes dancing in multiple locations in a weekend, and attended numerous state and national square-dancing conventions.
Walt and Barbara joined Grace Episcopal Church when they moved to Newington in 1953, and Walt served the church in many capacities over the years. Walt was licensed as a lay reader in 1961. For over 50 years, he ministered to the elderly, shut-ins, and disabled in the community, holding Sunday services at Bel-Air Manor, the Hartford Regional Center for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities, and other institutions.
Walt and Barbara were also longtime members of Grace Episcopal Church in Vineyard Haven,, where they were an enthusiastic and hard-working team at Friday Night Lobster Rolls.
Walt was a Mason and a member of Wooster Lodge No. 10 AF&AM in Colchester for more than 60 years. He was also a member of the Civitan Club of Newington, serving as president and in many other roles.
Walt is survived by his wife Barbara Carrier Block of Newington, his daughter Tracy Block Newport and her husband William Newport of Windsor, his son Thomas Carrier Block and his wife Dorothy Poole of Arlington, his sister Rachel Stalker of Hampstead, N.H., his grandson Timothy Leebrick Parkinson of Portland, Ore., his granddaughter Cory Carrier Chilberg and her husband Matthew of Coventry, and his grandson Louis Poole Block of Brooklyn, N.Y. “Grampy” was extremely proud of his three grandchildren. Walt was predeceased by his brother Arthur Block, half-sister Carolyn Duffy, and half-brother Dewayne Block.
Walt touched the lives of everyone he met with his kindness, gentle humor, and exceptional generosity. His smile and wink will be missed by all.
Friends are invited to call at Newington Memorial Funeral Home, 20 Bonair Avenue, Friday, Nov. 10, 2 to 4 pm and 6 to 8 pm.
Funeral services will be held at Grace Episcopal Church, 124 Maple Hill Avenue, Newington, on Saturday, Nov. 11, at 11 am. Interment will be at the Ponemah Cemetery, River Road, North Westchester, following a reception at the church.
The family asks that donations to charity be made in lieu of flowers. To share a memory with Walt’s family, please visit duksa.net.