And, that’s the way it is…with love to Walter Cronkite

Martha’s Vineyard, MA — Although I’d heard from friends who love and know Walter well that he has been failing this past year and would not be returning to the Vineyard this summer, I’m still incredibly sad to hear he’s died at age 92.

I was 8 when President Kennedy was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963.  The two strongest memories I have of being comforted on that dark and terrifying day were these:
•    Being sent home from school early, my mother rushing to greet me and wrapping me in her arms.
•    Hanging on every word that Walter Cronkite reported and believing that life would be OK and we’d be safe because Walter seemed in charge.

Later, as a journalist, I came to appreciate Walter’s fine reporting and his values.  There’s a very moving exhibit at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston that I would watch over and over and marvel at the tape of Walter emotionally delivering the fateful news to the country that day.

Even though I’d been a journalist and press secretary and had met most of the news media’s “big feet,” as the most famous journalists are called, I never saw or met Walter in person until we moved to Martha’s Vineyard in 2001, where he, too, has a home.

Quirky I know, but I love living here and sharing my name and number in the same phone book with Walter.  I never did, of course, but yes, here’s his address and phone number and apparently you could just call him up…or head over to his home on the harbor for a little visit!


One day, my husband Rob spied “America’s most trusted man” a few tables over at the Planeview, our favorite little airport restaurant.  He was with his son and later a grandson appeared.  Walter hugged him and focused his attention on the young man in just the way you might guess Walter would adore his grandson!

Through the years, I saw Walter on the Vineyard most often at charity events or the airport.  He was by then in his late 80s, warm, friendly and gracious to all who approached him.  He joked and teased in a kind and light-hearted way. He was somewhat frail and definitely hard-of-hearing, but you couldn’t miss his booming voice, which remained strong and unmistakeable even after he’d turned 90.

On another day at the airport, my mother was worried because her flight was delayed by fog.  We urged her to settle into “island mode” and just relax and people-watch.  You never know who you might see in the tiny Martha’s Vineyard airport.  No sooner had we spoken when Walter appeared and stood chatting with a friend two feet in front of my mother!  She got a ringside view of this man who was kind and curious, as interested in you as you were in him.


Joanna Simon at a dinner party on Martha's Vineyard in 2007

My heart goes out to Joanna Simon, Carly and Peter Simon’s sister, who was Walter’s significant other the past few years.  They became a couple after both of their long-time spouses had died. It was inspiring to know their love story and to see a couple in their later years so sweetly adoring of each other.

To me, Walter Cronkite was as much royalty in this country as the Kennedy family. I will miss his presence on this island and in this world.  The inspiring words of Shakespeare come to mind as I say goodbye and thank you to Uncle Walter for being such a good soul, outstanding role model and exuberant force in our world:

“Good night, sweet prince, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!”