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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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