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Walter North

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Walter North Obituary
Walter North

St. Ignace

Former Michigan Senator Walter North, 81, of St. Ignace passed away peacefully on October 31, 2014 at the Evergreen Living Center, concluding a remarkable life that began on January 31, 1933 when he was born to Robert and Mary (nee Wolfe) North in Kirksville, Missouri. Walt was raised in Battle Creek, Michigan by his mother and grandmother, and he was a standout student and All State basketball player at Battle Creek Central High School where he graduated.  He received a basketball scholarship to Western Michigan University, but a hand injury prevented him from playing. Walt interrupted his studies to enlist in the Air Force in 1952, served in the Korean War at Kunsan AFB from 1953-1954 as a staff sergeant, and was a proud veteran. He married his high school sweetheart, Sally Ann Greensmith, in 1953. After his service to his country, Walt resumed his education and was awarded a business degree at WMU.

Walt loved politics, and he made an unsuccessful run for Michigan State House in 1964. He jokingly blamed Barry Goldwater, at the head of the ballot, for his defeat. With a young family to provide for, Walt took a job with the Michigan Treasury Department , and this eventually led to an opportunity to move the family 'up north' in 1966 to become Comptroller at the Mackinac Bridge Authority. Walt eventually became Executive Secretary of the Authority in 1983, and he retired from that position in 1992. He possessed an immense knowledge of the "Mighty Mac", which he enjoyed sharing with groups and tourists in speaking events, and a daily "radio minute" broadcast.

The passion for politics never left Walt, and he was elected as State Senator for Michigan's sprawling 37th District in 1994, where he served two terms. Walt was well-known and respected in Lansing, and he used his eight years in that office to promote the economic and humanitarian needs of the residents of northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula.  Perhaps as a result of his humble upbringing, Walt was a fierce advocate for the less fortunate constituents in his district. He was proud of his involvement in numerous accomplishments which include the new hospital and nursing home facilities in St. Ignace; new medical clinics on both Mackinac and Beaver Islands; the expansion of the St. Ignace municipal marina; a new State Police post in St. Ignace; the Newberry Correctional Facility; and various Sault Tribe EDC projects including Little Bear East arena. During his tenure at the Mackinac Bridge Authority, he was instrumental in leading the growth of the Labor Day Bridge Walk event, as well as developing a comprehensive maintenance program for the bridge. After leaving the Senate, Walt served on multiple community foundation boards, the Lake Superior State University Foundation Board, and the Mackinac Straits Hospital Board.

Walt leaves behind his wife of 61 years, Sally; four sons and their families, Thomas, David, James (Kimberly) and Michael (Mary Joe) North, all residing in northern Michigan Seven grandchildren will dearly miss their Grandpa Walt. He was preceded in death by his parents. Walt had a life-long fondness for animals that continued until his death, including dogs, cats and horses. As a young boy he would bring home turtles, mice, frogs and whatever else he could catch, to the dismay of his mother.  Walt & Sally were founding members of the Friends of the Animals group that continues to care for pets in the eastern U.P.  Walt's other hobbies included boating, playing cribbage, shooting pool, and spending time with his family.

All services will be held at the St. Ignace United Methodist Church, with visitation on Tuesday, November 4, from 4:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m., and the funeral service on Wednesday, November 5 at 11:00 a.m. Interment will be at Lakeside Cemetery in St. Ignace in a family plot, appropriately overlooking the Mackinac Bridge.

The family appreciates the remarkable care that was provided to Walt at Mackinac Straits Hospital and the Evergreen Living Center, and asks that any gifts in his memory should be directed to the Mackinac Straits Health Foundation in St. Ignace. Envelopes are available from Dodson Funeral Home, 240 McCann Street, St. Ignace, MI  49781 who assisted the family with arrangements.

Published in Battle Creek Enquirer on Nov. 4, 2014
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