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Walter Leonard ANDERSON

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Walter Leonard ANDERSON Obituary
Computing Industry Pioneer Walter Leonard Anderson, of Springfield, VA, and formerly a longtime resident of Falls Church,VA, died Jan 10, 2013 of natural causes. He was 90 years old. Mr. Anderson, known to all as 'Wally', was a well-respected engineer and executive, was generous of soul, fond of humor, and beloved by his many friends and family. His long career in the field of computers began just as the first electronic computers were being developed. Born in St. Paul, Minnesota, Mr. Anderson grew up near Lake Phalen. His father, Walter Guy Anderson, ran the Great Northern dining car commissary until he retired at 65. His mother, Mabel Bergstrom Anderson, was a homemaker, and with his younger brother John Donald (Don), who eventually worked for the phone company, Wally loved to canoe the local lakes and to work on old cars. Wally was always interested in radios and photography and at Johnson High School was photographer for the school's yearbook. His love for making things work naturally led him to engineering, and he studied at the University of Minnesota where he obtained a Bachelors degree in Electrical Engineering. As America became involved in WWII, he accelerated his final year to finish his degree and enlisted in the Navy. He went through basic training at Fort Schuyler, then radar training at Bowdoin College and MIT, and spent a short time in the North Atlantic on the aircraft carrier USS Bogue as a radar officer before the war in Europe ended. Lieutenant Anderson then asked to be deployed in the Pacific, where he served as a radar officer on the USS Shamrock Bay, an escort carrier involved in the Philippines Campaign, the Invasion of Iwo Jima, the Battle of Okinawa, and finally Operation Magic Carpet (the repatriation of military personnel from the Pacific Theatre). While at MIT, Wally met Catherine Watton (Kitty), a student at Wellesley College, and in 1946, after the war ended, they were married in New York City. They moved to St. Paul where he took a job with Engineering Research Associates (ERA), a pioneering company that had grown out of a Navy group doing codebreaking during the war. He developed circuits for a large-scale fixed program computer, and designed magnetic recording circuits for the the first stored program computer: 'Task 13', later renamed using the binary designation for 13, as the 'ERA 1101'. He was the co-developer of the first successful coating of magnetic storage drums by an oxide spraying technique. While at ERA, he also completed his M.S.E.E. at the University of Minnesota in 1948. In 1949, the Andersons moved to Virginia, where Wally continued at the ERA office in Arlington as head of the Electronics Section. Their four children were born during the years they lived in nearby Falls Church. In 1955, Wally and other ERA engineers left to found General Kinetics, Inc., (GKI). Wally served as Executive Vice President, Chairman of the Board, and then President of GKI, the latter position for 9 years, until 1974. Under Wally's tutelage, GKI won an Oscar in 1960 for film technology, making improvements to the cleaning of movie film, critical to the long-term storage of films in archives. During this time, Wally was a cofounder of the Washington D.C. chapter of the Institute of Radio Engineers (IRE) Professional Group on Electronic Computers (PGEC). He rose to National Chairman of the IRE-PGEC, and when IRE merged with AIEE to become IEEE in 1963, he became the first National Chairman of the IEEE Computer Group. He also became a director of the American Federation of Information Processing Societies (AFIPS) in 1962, and rose to President of that organization in 1972-1973. He was involved with the planning and execution of the first USA-Japan Computer Conference in 1972. In 1974 Wally joined the General Accounting Office (GAO - now known as the Government Accountability Office) in Washington, D.C. in a position created for him: Associate Director for Automatic Data Processing Reviews and Evaluations. His role was often one of industry liaison, using his contacts to encourage communication between corporations and government. He rose to the position of Senior Advisor, reviewing the use of computers in government organizations. He authored or coauthored many reports, appearing before Congress several times. Over the years, Mr. Anderson was the recipient of numerous awards for his service to government and industry, including the Centennial Medal for Extraordinary Achievement from IEEE in 1984. Wally retired in 1992, and enjoyed spending time traveling with Kitty, who also retired from her job as an elementary school teacher. During his time in Virginia, Wally was a member and elder of two churches in Falls Church, Knox Presbyterian Church and Idylwood Presbyterian Church. He served as temporary Deacon at Knox in the time period between Pastors. In 2002, after 43 years living in the lively Falls Hill area of Falls Church, he and Kitty moved to Greenspring Village, a senior living community in Springfield. They spent their remaining years enjoying friends and family. Wally explored creative writing, with many of his memoir essays published in the community journal. Collections of his works "Clippings and Musings" and "Even More Clippings and Musings" are available in the Greenspring Library. His professional papers were donated to his alma mater, the University of Minnesota, and can be found at Walter L. Anderson Papers (CBI 28), Charles Babbage Institute, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. Wally was the beloved husband of the late Catherine W. Anderson, loving father of David Anderson, Douglas Anderson, Dale Anderson Lombardi and Donald Anderson; devoted grandfather of Justin, Katie, Philip, Phoebe and Jyotica; and brother of J. Donald Anderson of St. Paul, MN. A memorial service will be held at the Greenspring Village Chapel at Greenspring Village, 7410 Spring Village Dr., Springfield, VA at 2 pm on Saturday, February 16, 2013. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to The Greenspring Village Benevolent Fund, 7440 Spring Village Dr., Springfield, VA 22150.
Published in Pioneer Press on Jan. 20, 2013
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