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1924 - 2013 Obituary Condolences


"A True Gentleman"

Sigma Alpha Epsilon

TNKA 1947

Dr. Joseph W. Walt, Ph.D., world traveler, long time Simpson College faculty member, and former head of its History Department, completed his life's journey in Indianola, Iowa on Wednesday, January 2, 2013. Born on April 21, 1924 in Los Angeles, California, he was "Doc Walt" to over a half century of Simpson College students. In addition, sons and daughters of his many Indianola friends could call him "Uncle Joe." From the men of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity of which he was a national officer he drew respect as "Brother Joe." However, to the many German youth exchange students home-hosted across several decades it was the respectful, "Herr Walt" which identified him. All of these and even those who only knew him casually benefited from his infectious charm, boundless wit and hoard of wisdom.

Although the scholarly voice of Dr. Walt has now fallen silent, his literary contributions live on in definitive works that sprang from his pen on a wide range of topics. Among them are a history of Lichtenstein (the country of his descent), and "Beneath the Whispering Maples" - the long awaited history of his beloved Simpson College crafted largely from the amazing preservation of Simpson lore on the pages of Indianola, Iowa's newspapers for nearly half its existence. Joe's discovery of these public sources containing near verbatim records of Simpson personnel and activities served as replacements for official documents thought lost forever to flames when the college's administrative building burned in the 1920s.

Born to Harold H. Walt and Nell Wood Walt, Joe spent his formative years in California. Learning and witnessing to matters important to him took place through Mormon mission work in Switzerland, U.S. Navy service, and academic degrees earned from University of California Los Angeles, the University of Tennessee, and Northwestern University of Evanston, Illinois. Each of these settings informed and enriched the content of his classes and relationships shared in the hospitality of his home. Although he focused his expertise on the Near East, one could learn much from a man whose interest took in a broad cross-section of the world's places and people. May all who have come within the reach of his influence consider themselves blessed by his caring and sharing - and pass on those gifts to others as a part of his legacy.

Joe is survived by three nephews, (Bruce, David and Tom) and his niece (Hillary). His sister, Joanne Mathews Kennedy, preceded him in death.

Services will be held 10 a.m. Saturday, January 5, 2013 at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 807 North 15th St., Indianola, with burial following in the Indianola I.O.O.F. Cemetery. Visitation will be held 4 to 8 p.m., Friday, January 4 at Overton Funeral Home in Indianola. Memorials may be given to Simpson College, in his name. Online condolences may be made at


Published in Des Moines Register on Jan. 3, 2013
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