Walter Alexander Hein, Grainfield, KS, age 89, died Monday, January 7, 2013 at Gove County Medical Center. He was born to Matthew S. and Julianna M. (Kraft) Hein, December 16, 1923, five miles north of Grainfield, KS in Sheridan Co.
Walter was the oldest of six children. When Walter was five years old, the family moved to Grainfield where Walter attended Elementary School through High School. As a young boy he enjoyed hunting, fishing, and other boyhood activities. In later years, on drives through the countryside, he would point out where a good swimming hole or fishing hole was in his day. He would tell of hunting rabbits, and gathering bones and bottles then hauling them back to town in his wagon to sell. This was the way to make pocket money. He played the violin, and enjoyed singing. During his High School days he was active in sports, mostly basketball. He loved photography and did photographs for the Grainfield Blue Birds Year book. He had a little dark room where he developed his own pictures. While in High School, Walter helped his father with farming and the gas and oil business. After graduating from High School, he attended St. Josephs Military Academy in Hays until he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps, 5th Air Force, in 1943. He hoped to train as a pilot, but was told he was too tall. Walter served overseas in the South Pacific. Most of his duty was in Australia, but he also served in Dutch New Guinea, and Leyte, Philippine Islands. He worked as a radio-teletype operator and administrative matters. He was in charge of the high speed teletype room when stationed at Archer Field, Brisbane, Australia. While stationed in Brisbane, he met and married Mary Ellen (Grant) Hein in 1945.
Returning to civilian life back in Kansas, Walter helped his father again with farming and the gas business. Walter then built a Propane plant, which led to plumbing, heating, electrical, air conditioning, and appliance businesses. He sold Westinghouse appliances, and bought them by the car loads. At one time someone commented that he sold so many Westinghouse washer and dryer sets, that everyone must have a pair and a spare. When Walt did work for you he sold part of his soul with the work. He may have taken a little time to get to your call, he always had a list a mile long, but when he did, he tried to save you money by "fixing" your problem. Day or night, he was on call. Many people and businesses might find their door key in his pile of unlabeled keys. Somehow he knew who, and where, each key belonged. Walt was instrumental in developing the Hotsy Steam Cleaner and sat on the board of directors in Denver at one time. In the 1960's he owned and operated two Western Auto Stores; one in Oakley and the other in Grainfield, along with "Walt's Home & Auto”, and later, "Walmar Plumbing & Electric” He was in business for over 60 years.
Although the U.S. Army Air Force thought he was too tall to fly, he did become a pilot, flying small air craft. It was one of the personal activities that Walter truly loved. After he gave up flying, he would pause when he heard a plane overhead, he never spoke, and he didn't need to, the longing look was enough. Walter loved to travel, he visited many countries. Among them were Austria, Czechoslovakia, Turkey, Italy, Spain, Greece, China, Japan, Brazil and Germany. He always took one or more of his children with him. Walter seldom got on a flight to anywhere, that someone didn't shout out, "Hey, Walt Hein...!"
Walt's large family was so very important to him. He raised them all with a strong work ethic, and a deep sense of responsibility to match his own. Each one is successful in life, and they have that same love and patience with their families. He was proud of each and every one of them. He would tell them, "If you can't win the race, make the guy in front of you come in first." He enjoyed his grandchildren; nothing made him happier than when they would visit him, and later on the great-grandchildren.
In 1981, Walter married Charleen "Charlie" Bananto in Wichita. Charlie convinced him to pause now and then to enjoy the beauty of a sunset, to sit a bit and enjoy the flowers and the pets, Skippie and Skyy. He loved to dance as much as he loved to fly. He worked hard all his life, but he liked to have fun as well. He never actually slowed down, he just ran out of energy all at once.
Walter had a deep, quiet faith in Christ. No matter where he was on Sunday, he would find a Mass scheduled somewhere. When traveling in some areas in the South that wasn't always easy. He was devoted to the Rosary.
He found great satisfaction in helping others, usually never taking credit for his generosity, preferring to remain anonymous. Often times, he would leave a box of food or a bicycle for a child that didn't have one. He would take time out from his busy schedule to listen to anyone, young or old, in need of advice, a kind ear, or a shoulder to cry on. He was always ready to help in any way he could.
Walt was always interested in healthy living, believed in Vitamins and Minerals, back when that was considered a "health nut." He became an EMT in the early 80's and loved it. His schedule usually kept him from answering calls and he gave it up.
He was a member of St. Agnes Catholic Church, the Knights of Columbus, and American Legion, all of Grainfield, and the VFW in Grinnell.
Walter was preceded in death by his parents; two brothers, Robert Hein, and Donald Hein; one sister, Bernita Arnott; his daughter, Denise (Hein) Scott; and stepson, Joseph (Billy) Bananto. Survivors include his wife Charlie of the home; seven daughters, Kate Schmidtberger and husband Randy of Hays KS, Judy Ranson of Colorado Springs, CO, Jeanne Wilkins of Brisbane, Australia, Cindy McMillin of Colorado Springs, CO, Tammy Archer of Colorado Springs, CO, Rene Johnson of Quinter, KS, Melissa Bradfield and husband Greg of Greeley, CO; five sons, Richard Hein and wife Linda of Lincoln, NE, Terry Hein of Quinter, KS, Steve Hein of Albuquerque, NM, David Hein and wife Louise of Hays, KS, Mark Hein and wife Karen of Novato, CA; three step-children, Nanetta Horton, Bruce Bananto, and Anthony Bananto; 25 grandchildren; 20 great- grandchildren; 2 step-grandchildren; 5 step-great- grandchildren; his sister, Sally Dinkel and husband Joe of Hill City, KS; and his brother, Harold Hein and wife Martha of Arvada, CO; and sister-in-law, Roberta Hein of Mulvane, KS; and many nieces and nephews.
Walter will be greatly missed by his family, friends, and the many people he touched throughout his long life.
A mass of Christian burial will be 10:00 a.m., Saturday, January 12, 2013 at St. Agnes Catholic Church of Grainfield. Burial will be in the Grainfield Cemetery.
Visitation will be Friday from 5 to 7 p.m. at the St. Agnes Religious Education Center in Grainfield with a parish vigil service to be held at 7 p.m.
Memorial contributions are suggested to the American Legion, VFW, the Grainfield Opera House, or the masses and may be sent in care of Schmitt Funeral Home, 901 South Main, Quinter, KS 67752.