Power Point: Learn from the Greatest Generation

November 22, 2008, 3:43 AM UTC

“Going back to the fundamentals of basic living like Walter experienced will turn this country and our economy around.”

— Michael, a Postcards reader in Cincinnati, Ohio, referring to the new Guest Post, The Great Depression, as I remember, by 91-year-old Walter Stoiber.

Since we launched Postcards in June, we’ve given you a dozen Guest Posts by a variety of celebrated folks–sports icons like Billie Jean King, philanthropists such as Jennifer Buffett, business bigwigs like Avon CEO Andrea Jung and JetBlue founder David Neeleman. But no one has drawn as many page views or as much praise from readers as my Uncle Walt. The response is certainly a sign of the times. Even though the chance of a full-blown repeat of the ’30s is slight, we’re reading about companies like Wal-Mart , Kraft Foods , and Wells Fargo helping to keep food banks from running out of supplies. We’re reading New York Times’ columnist Paul Krugman’s sharp analyses of “Lame-Duck Economy” today and “Depression Economics Returns” last Friday. And we’re seeing sales of Depression-era art, literature, and movies like The Grapes of Wrath shore up our sinking economy.

Since Walter Stoiber drew so much attention (including a request from one reader to get him talking on video), let me tell you just a bit about him. He is an amazingly healthy nonagenarian who scraped through the Depression in Altoona, Pa. and raised seven great children on an insurance man’s pay in Youngstown, Ohio. He lost his wife and their mother, Inez, to cancer when Randy, the youngest child, was nine years old. My Uncle Walt now lives in Boardman, outside Youngstown, with his second wife, Dorothy. They’ve been married for 36 years.

This Guest Post by Big Walt — as the family calls him — came about after another son, Jeff, who is an architect in Washington, D.C., asked him to jot down a few impressions about growing up during the Great Depression. Uncle Walt wrote such a moving recollection that I decided to ask him if I could share it with you. He was glad to do that. And we’re all thrilled with the response to his post. As reader Michael La Grave of Santa Barbara, Ca. says about Uncle Walt and his ilk, “That, fellow readers, is why they are called ‘the Greatest Generation.'”

So please pass his Guest Post on to your loved ones. Octogenarians and teenagers alike, I suspect, can learn about strength and resiliency from Uncle Walt.

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