A Saint Michael’s legend defined a life well-lived

February 6, 2024
Annie Rosello
Admission and Development Officer, Mid-Atlantic Region

Walter J. Fitzmaurice, class of 1949, passed away peacefully on January 10, 2024, two months past his 100th birthday. Born in Rumford, Maine, Walter was drafted into the U.S. Army Air Force during the height of World War II. Stationed in England, he proudly took his place in the “Greatest Generation,” serving as a radio operator and machine gunner on B-24 Liberators, flying 30 combat missions over enemy territory with the renowned “Flying Eight-Balls.”

Walter became a highly decorated veteran receiving the Air Medal six times and the European-African-Middle Eastern Theater ribbon with four Battle Stars. In 2009, the Republic of France presented Walter with its highest honor, the Legion of Honor Medal, for his participation and bravery during a covert mission into occupied France to deliver much needed supplies to the French Resistance. In 2010, in recognition of his lifelong achievements, Walter was honored by Saint Michael’s with the Colonel Donald G. Cook USMC ’56 Award, the highest honor the College bestows.

A Young Walter Fitzmaurice

After the end of WWII, Walter returned to the U.S. and attended Saint Michael’s, earning a B.S. in Biological Studies in 1949. That same year he met the love of his life, Lorraine, who survives him. They were married for 75 years and raised eight children in North Reading, MA, where they lived for more than 72 years as vital members of their community and St. Theresa’s parish.

Walter began his career at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Department of Defense, then spent most of his career as a Food Scientist for Natick Labs. Among notable research and development projects for the U.S. Army, Walter directed efforts which provided food for NASA’s first crewed lunar landing on the moon in 1969.

Walter had 13 grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren, and one great-great grandchild. His grandson, Robert Encarnacao ’93, eloquently eulogized his grandfather at his recent funeral with humor and profound respect.

“We both graduated from Saint Michael’s, albeit 44 years apart. We both met and married our wives while at Saint Michael’s as well. I assure you; we did not plan this,” he explained. The alumni duo spent countless hours driving to St. Mike’s for Reunion events over the years, where Walter “was a charming and gallant figure, ever the ‘alumni star’ with his old-fashioned courtesy and charisma. His sense of humor remained intact, often quipping that he was ‘too handsome for his height’.”

Robert continued, “My grandfather’s life was a tapestry of tenderness and love, woven with countless smiles, hugs, and the gentle holding of hands. His greeting was always warm and welcoming. ‘It’s wonderful to see you,’ he would say with his eyes lighting up with genuine happiness… He embodied responsibility, joy, and a vibrant optimism. A hope that reflected his deep gratitude for life’s blessings.”

Walter Fitzmaurice

Walter was beloved by his friends and classmates, and generations of alumni who came after him. He was adored by the Saint Michael’s staff, faculty, and Edmundites, who appreciated his immense loyalty and devotion to the College.

“Walter always stood out for me as an exemplary human,” remembers Angie Armour ’99, former Executive Director of Institutional Advancement. “He talked a lot about being a poor kid from Maine, and how Saint Michael’s gave him an opportunity for a better life. He never forgot that and was incredibly grateful for it as long as he lived. Walter just loved being on campus, catching up with other Golden Knights, chatting with the staff, and meeting students when he could. I’m so grateful I had the chance to know him. Walter Fitzmaurice was an American hero in every sense of the word, and a Purple Knight to his core.”

Longtime Saint Michael’s staff member and current Executive Director of Institutional Advancement Terri Selby attended Walter’s funeral, in tribute to the alumnus she knew and loved.

“Walter was a true ‘Michaelman,’” she explains. “He was the last of a close-knit group of alumni from the ‘40s and ‘50s who got together for lunch every month. These men grew fond of me, and I of them; it was as if I had a dozen or so adoptive grandfathers. They came up en masse to Reunion every year to welcome the 50th Class into the ranks of ‘Golden Knights.’ I miss their laughter, their pranks, their stories, their spats, and their idiosyncrasies. They were deeply passionate about the College because they were veterans of WWII and felt lucky to have survived and luckier still to receive something they thought out of reach without the GI Bill — a college education. I felt their presence at his funeral, as if they were sitting next to me in the pew saying, ‘Don’t worry, we saved a seat at the table for Walter, and his martini has been ordered.’ I was blessed to have Walter and his friends in my life.”

Rest in peace, Walter, and thank you for nearly 80 years of devotion to your home on the Hilltop. You have been a good and faithful servant and have lived out the words of Saint Paul: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy: 4-7) You truly embodied the vision of Saint Michael’s: Do Well and Do Good.

For Walter’s full obituary, click here.

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