Walter Allen Schenkman
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Walter Allen Schenkman

June 27, 1924 - April 23, 2008

Walter Allen Schenkman

June 27, 1924 - April 23, 2008

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Obituary for Walter Allen Schenkman

Walter Schenkman, a 52-year resident and musical contributor to the community of Greeley, Co., passed away Wednesday evening, April 23rd, while playing the piano in his home studio. He was 83 years old. Walter was born to Max Schenkman and Edith Ray (Kuntz) Schenkman in Piscataway Township, NJ, on June 27, 1924 and was the youngest of six children, now all deceased. His oldest brother, Irving, and his sister, Phoebe, played a major role in raising him, as he was only six years old when both of his parents died. Walter was home-schooled, grew up on a farm, and began what was to become his life-long career and passion - piano playing - at the age of five. His brother, Irving, a concert pianist, was a major influence on his pianistic interpretations. In 1943, Walter was a freshman at Rutgers University when he was drafted into the Army Air Corps. (The Greeley Tribune recently ran a story about his service in their "Heroes of WWII" weekly series). After the war, Walter entered Harvard University where he initially considered a degree in language. The study of Latin, German and Italian had already been a daily routine for many years. He received his degree in Slavic Languages and then returned to his first love --- the piano. He spent four years at the Paris Conservatory, earned a Masters in music from Yale, and toured with the Totenberg Trio. In 1956, he accepted a position with the University of Northern Colorado. Walter moved with his then-wife Libby (with whom he maintained a warm friendship until his death) and son, Max, to Greeley where he taught at UNC for 27 years, retiring in 1984. His daughters, Fay and Becky were born in Greeley. He earned a doctorate in Music from Indiana University and during his tenure at UNC, served as Professor of Music and Chairman of the Piano Department. Appearing annually in solo recitals on and off campus (including a recital in New York's Town Hall in 1975) Walter also appeared as a soloist with the University orchestra, as well as a member of various chamber groups. His writings on music (over 60 published articles) earned him an ASCAP Deems Taylor Award in 1975 and he was named Distinguished Scholar of the University in 1976. Following his retirement in 1984, Walter presented a series of lecture-recital programs through the Colorado Endowment for the Humanities. During the 1990-91 season in a series of eight recitals he performed all of Beethoven's 32 Sonatas at the Union Colony Civic Center's Hensel Phelps Auditorium - a first in Greeley's musical history. In 2002 he initiated a recording project designed to preserve insights gained along the way of a lifetime devoted to teaching, writing, and performing. These (12) CD recordings have been distributed and enjoyed across the globe, thanks to the inter-net (wspiano.com and bravomaestro.com) - and serve, as well, as a most treasured legacy for his surviving family and loved ones. His first marriage having dissolved, Walter met, and married in 1970, Anne (Woerner) Bergmann, a fellow professor. After Anne retired in 1987, the two took many trips abroad and enjoyed a wide variety of adventures and activities - but always returned home to their shared love of gardening. Walter was a vigorous contributor to many causes and charities and was also an involved and active community member around many issues - ranging from national politics to local practical matters: his efforts were key in the moving of a feedlot away from the downtown area of Greeley. He was an avid walker (two miles a day almost every day of his life - including his last) and only in 2003, after being severely stricken with West Nile virus, did he break briefly from this routine. He was a known fixture throughout his neighborhood, where he enjoyed walking - and talking - with many of his neighbors. Walter was a loving and devoted husband to his surviving wife, Anne; and a loving, devoted, and treasured father and grandfather, too. He is survived by his son, Max, and wife Susan; his daughter Fay, and husband Wayne, and (pre-deceased) by his cherished youngest daughter, Becky. He is also survived by his son and daughter by marriage, Bob Bergmann, and wife Chris; and by Linda Bergmann and husband Bill Chambreau. Walter was looking so forward to attending his grandson, Alex's Graduation in May; and was also a loving grandfather to Erik, Keefe, Christopher, and Michael. Many surviving nephews and nieces, as well, brought joy to Walter - and he was affectionately known to many of them as "Uncle Walty". For many years Walter enjoyed a regular routine of visiting with a circle of close and dear friends and always looked forward to their next luncheon get-together... He will be missed by us all so very much. We're grateful for his fine example of life well-lived, and his legacy of kind heart and humor. Walter's voice will carry on now, forever, through his musical recordings - just as it carried every time he sat down to play. A memorial service is planned for Saturday, May 24th at 3:00 p.m. in the Hensel Phelps Auditorium at the Union Colony Civic Center. In lieu of flowers, gifts may be made to the Walter Schenkman Piano Scholarship, c/o the Adamson Memorial Chapel, or c/o the UNC Foundation.

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