Saying Goodbye To Wally, A Lakewood Icon Who Was Known For Saying Hello

Whether you sported purple and gold or green and gold, whether you lived in Lakewood or were passing through on your way downtown, you undoubtedly knew Wally. He was the man that sat outside of Lakewood Senior Health Campus, now O'Neill Healthcare Lakewood, located at the corner of Detroit and Bunts. Wally became an icon to students who attended school in Lakewood, year after year greeting them on their way to and from school. He also waved at each and every driver passing by. And what better event for Wally than the annual Lakewood 4th of July parade?!

We are saddened to report that Wally passed away in August. Wally lived at O'Neill Healthcare for over two decades after sustaining paralyzing injuries in an accident. That accident however, did not paralyze his spirit! Day after day, in rain, sleet, snow or beating sun, Wally sat outside his front door and smiled and waved. Word of Wally spread and in 2000, Connie Schultz of the Plain Dealer interviewed him. Wally stated, "(Waving to strangers) gives me a reason to live."

Pastor Jeff Dayton, chaplain of O'Neill Healthcare Hospice, spent a great deal of time with Wally in his final months and recounts, "Wally was a private man who touched more lives than he ever realized." Nursing staff fondly remember his fierce independence. Even in his final months Wally fought hard to do what he could for himself.  

As time went on, Wally stopped going outside, however, his love for his community never faltered. This past spring, the little brother of a St. Ed's student passed away. The entire student body lined Detroit, solemnly standing at attention awaiting the funeral procession. Wally was very sick at this time, however, when staff approached him and asked if he would like to join the students, he quickly agreed, despite having rarely left his bed in recent weeks. With great effort on his part, Wally was assisted out the front door of his longtime home. The student body parted and he took his place among them. While Wally didn't know this individual student, Wally belonged there. This was to become Wally's final public expression of his love for his community.

Wally will be greatly missed by his family, the residents and staff of O'Neill Healthcare Lakewood, and his community. He taught us that one person, despite significant obstacles, can make a difference - even with the simplest gesture of waving hello.

O'Neill Healthcare Lakewood

Come visit us at O'Neill Healthcare Lakewood

Read More on Features
Volume 10, Issue 19, Posted 4:31 PM, 09.16.2014