Obituary : Walter L. Cronkite
Walter Leland Cronkite, 92, iconic CBS Evening News anchor and managing editor, died Friday, July 17, at his home in Manhattan. Mr. Cronkite, a long-time seasonal Edgartown resident, was a skilled and devoted sailor, sailing Vineyard waters and along the East Coast.
Born on Nov. 4, 1916 in St. Joseph, Mo., he was the son of Walter Leland Cronkite Sr., a dentist, and the former Helen Lena Fritsche. His family moved several times, and as a young boy in Texas, Mr. Cronkite worked for The Houston Post, first as a delivery boy, then copy boy, then cub reporter.
He attended the University of Texas for two years and left college in 1935 to take a job as a reporter. Mr. Cronkite later took a job at KCMO radio in Kansas City, Mo., to read news and broadcast football games under the name of Walter Wilcox. There, he met Mary Elizabeth Maxwell, an advertising writer. They married in 1941, and remained together for 64 years until her death in 2005.
A member of the Edgartown Yacht Club and Edgartown Reading Room and a passionate fundraiser for several nonprofit organizations, including the Foote Memorial Animal Shelter, Sheriff's Meadow Foundation, and Sail Martha's Vineyard, Mr. Cronkite also contributed generously to Martha's Vineyard Community Services' Possible Dreams auction. Every year since its inception in 1979, he donated a sailing excursion on his sailboat Wyntje and lunch made by his wife. In 2006, Mr. Cronkite's offering raised $80,000, according to Jan Hatchard, former development director for Martha's Vineyard Community Services. This year's Possible Dreams auction will be held in his honor.
"Everyone knew Uncle Walter," said Island artist Ray Ellis, an Edgartown resident. He and Mr. Cronkite collaborated on three books: "North by Northeast," (1983), "South by Southeast," (1986) and "Windward" (1990). "I shall miss his humor and his fascinating stories. My wife, Teddie, and I heard incredible and intimate stories of his life as a journalist while sailing with him on his beloved Wyntje."
After KCMO, Mr. Cronkite worked at the United Press news agency (now United Press International) and Braniff International Airways. He was selected for an Army Air Force program that took him to Germany to cover the Nuremberg trials after the war.