Walter Y. Elisha was born December 10, 1932, in Gary, Indiana, son of the late Elizabeth Yonan and Youshia B. Elisha. In addition to his parents, Walter was preceded in death by his brother, Charles J. Elisha, who died during World War II; his sister, Louise E. Elisha, his younger son, Michael E. Elisha and Michael's wife, Cathleen Moran Elisha.
Walter married his high school sweetheart, Arlene Thompson Elisha. They had three children: Lynn E. and Allan D. Hansen; Jody T. and W. Robert Elisha; Cathleen M. and Michael E. Elisha. They have six grandchildren: Laura H. and Brian J. Eisner; Ian A. Hansen; Carolyn E. and Scott J. Stockberger; Elizabeth A. Elisha; W. Robert Elisha, Jr.; and Kate A. Elisha.
Following graduation from Wabash College, Walter joined his family's rug business; later entering Harvard's MBA program. After achieving his MBA, he joined the Jewel Companies in Chicago, rising to vice chairman and director. He joined Springs Industries, Inc., a textile company in Fort Mill, SC, in 1980, serving as president, chairman and CEO, and director, retiring in 1998.
His directorships, included AT&T, AT&T Wireless, Cummins, Inc., Jack Eckerd Corporation, Stone Container Corporation, and American Textile Manufacturers Institute. He was a trustee of Wabash College, the Brookings Institution, and a member of the Board of Directors of the Associates of the Harvard Business School. He was a member of The Business Council, served as a member of the President's Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations, the Business Roundtable, and Palmetto Business Forum.
Walter received the Distinguished Service & Alumni Achievement Award from the Harvard Business School; the Alumni Award of Merit from Wabash College; honorary degrees from Limestone College, Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science, the University of South Carolina, Wabash College, and Winthrop University.
Walter Elisha's father served as a U.S. Army photographer during World War I. That history added to Walter's delight in learning of Springs' involvement with art, particularly photography. Under his tenure, Springs continued to sponsor photographic art exhibitions at such major venues as the Chicago Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum, the Museum of Modern Art and the National Gallery. Iconic artists featured included Ansel Adams, Atget, Edouard Baldus, Eugene Cuvelier, Yousuf Karsh, Andre Kertesz, Nadar, Georgia O'Keefe, Alfred Steiglitz, and Garry Winogrand.
In the mid-80's, as part of the observance of Springs Industries' Centennial, Walter led the creation of a special art program to focus on the company's unique values. He commissioned world-renowned sculptor Bruno Lucchesi to create seven life-size bronze sculptures depicting each of the seven Springs stated values--Quality, Service, Education, Personal and Family Well-Being, Creativity, Respect for History, and Planning for the Future. All of the sculptures were installed in the Fort Mill area for the enjoyment of school children and the entire community. Several of the sculptures remain in a public space now called "Walter Elisha Park"--the site where the company began in 1887.
Walter was well-read and loved to write his own speeches. He had a sly, quick sense of humor combined with a naturally compassionate nature. While his colleagues knew firsthand of his intense pursuit of his business goals, some also knew of his unadvertised, thoughtful kindnesses to individuals inside and outside of the company and his charitable generosities.
Off-duty and into retirement, Walter enjoyed spending time with his family, playing tennis, sailing the islands off Nantucket and the Caribbean, raising cattle, and driving his ATV around his farm near Charlotte, NC.
The Elisha family extends their special appreciation to caregivers Elizabeth Washington, Anthony Crawford, John Williams, and the Stewart Health Center staff.
A service to celebrate the life of Mr. Elisha will be held at 1:00 p.m. Saturday, July 14th at Unity Presbyterian Church, 303 Tom Hall Street, Fort Mill, SC 29715. His family will receive friends at the church following the service.
Memorials may be made to Alzheimer's Disease Research, 22512 Gateway Center Drive, PO Box 1950, Clarksburg, MD 20871-1950, or the charity of your choice
Condolences may be offered at www.HarryandBryantFuneralHome.com