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Archive for March, 2012

Awarded 2 Purple Hearts, Walt Stitt talks with Charlie Adams about his Love of Travel

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

By Motivational Speaker Charlie Adams

Walt Stitt knows what it is like to go up in a hot air balloon at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta.


“You can’t believe it’s happening until you see it,” recalled Walt, who went on the Edgerton’s New Mexico Group Trip two years ago. “It wasn’t frightening. It happens slow, nice and easy. It’s not like an elevator where you shoot up. You get up there and all you see are other balloons. It’s beautiful. I have gone up in hot air balloons twice before in Ohio, but they were single balloons. Out in New Mexico, they are all over the sky! None of our people were nervous. The man who made the biggest fuss was our host Bill (Moor). Height bothers him, but he was a good sport and enjoyed it at the end!”


I am going to host New Mexico and the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta October 9th to the 16th. “It is a really good trip,” said Walt. “I had always heard of Santa Fe and wanted to see it too. There are delightful side trips like Taos.”


Walt has loved to travel all his life. He has combined going on Edgerton’s Group trips with planning trips himself. “I’m 87 and still at it,” said Walt. “I’ve been to London 27 times!”


He is going back to Wales – his favorite place to visit – in May for a 10 day trip and will see London again. He loves visiting the United Kingdom and has been to Scotland four times.”To everyone that lives near South Bend,” Walt said, “be sure to go see the Play ‘39 Steps’ that is playing now at the South Bend Civic Theatre. It is really good. I have seen that Play five times in London.”


Walt has been all over creation. “One time we flew into Scotland,” recalled Walt. “Edgerton’s built that trip. They had a motorcoach waiting. It is nice sometimes to have trips where everything is managed and all your baggage is handled. I will say that every place I have gone with Edgerton’s, that everything has been done well. They know what they are doing. We have gone with Edgerton’s over ten times.”

“One of the more interesting trips was to Czechoslovakia,” said Walt. “I went with my brother and our wives. This was right after the Wall had come down. At that time you could get a whole meals for $3 and that included appetizers, meal and dessert. They were still on the previous era, but that changed in a hurry.”


“I have been to Greece and to Italy a few times,” he added. “I went on a big Greek ship down the Panama Canal one time. I asked the waiter how old the ship was and he said it was being drydocked for good soon. I said it should have been a year earlier! I have been to St. Thomas, St. John’s, Nassau and places like that, and in the U.S. had a good visit last spring to Virginia.”


Like many of our Edgerton’s Group travelers, Walt is a WWII Veteran. He fought in some of the most intense Tank Battles in 1944 and 1945. Columnist Bill Moor wrote about Walt a year ago. Here is part of that Column:


He was still just 18 when he walked up the hillside behind Omaha Beach a few weeks after D-Day. He was a replacement tanker for E Company of the 33rd Armor Regiment. “Everybody else was pretty much gone by that time,” he says.


Walt caught up with the action, though. Did he ever. He lost two tank commanders to enemy fire, had three of his tanks destroyed and received two Purple Hearts for injuries suffered in combat.

As part of Taskforce Lovelady’s push into Germany, his first Sherman tank was hit by enemy fire that killed his tank commander and another member of their five-man crew. “And they fell in such a way that I couldn’t get out our hatch,” he says. “Fortunately, I saw a little daylight up by the driver’s hatch in front of me and made it out just before we were hit again.”


He suffered his own wounds that day. In fact, he ran up to another tank to get a dressing for a leg injury only to have a German sniper almost pick him off with his burp gun. (From South Bend Tribune, February 17, 2011, Bill Moor)

WWII Author Rob Morris also wrote about Stitt, and continued on with Stitt’s adventures in the War:


In November, his new tank hit a mine in a minefield, destroying the tank but luckily not killing its crew. Assigned to a new tank, the crew forged on into Germany, and participated in the Battle of the Bulge.

On January 6, Stitt’s tank was hit by a Panzerfaust anti-tank weapon, killing the tank commander and wounding Stitt in the head. He was shipped to a hospital, where he recuperated and returned to combat yet again. This time, however, he became sick and was evacuated to a hospital in Bristol, England.

At this point, Stitt was given a status of ‘limited service’ and sent to the 95th Bomb Group at Horham. His original job was that of an Armorer and bomb-loader. However, he could not lift his arm above his shoulder without dislocating it. The 95th needed to find something else for him to do.

“They sent me to work in the PX. Wonderful! Any time I had money I went to London. They didn’t really need me in the PX.” In fact, Stitt was in London on VE Day. “After the flyers and the support troops started to go home, I was put in charge of the Enlisted Men’s Beer Hall. A job to die for!”

(From Author Rob Morris)

Over 1000 WWII Veterans are dying a day. Walt became Secretary/Treasurer of the 3rd Armored Division Association. He closed the group’s final national reunion on September 18, 2010, in Columbus, Georgia, the home of Ft. Benning. His closing included his favorite poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay” and the classic song “May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You.” The words to both are below:

“NOTHING GOLD CAN STAY”
by Robert Frost (1874-1963)

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

“MAY THE GOOD LORD BLESS AND KEEP YOU”
by Meredith Wilson (1902-1984)

May the good Lord bless and keep you,
Whether near or far away,
May you find that long awaited golden day today.

May your troubles all be small ones,
And your fortunes ten times ten,
May the good Lord bless and keep you,
Till we meet again.

May you walk with sunshine shining,
And a bluebird in every tree,
May there be a silver lining,
Back of every cloud you see.

Will you dream of sweet tomorrows,
Never mind what might have been,
May the good Lord bless and keep you,
Till we meet again.

May the good Lord bless and keep you,
Till we meet, Till we meet again.


You can see Walt read the poem and sing the song at the final Reunion here

Walt became a Lutheran minister who came to South Bend in 1977 as the assistant to the Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America and then later as the pastor of Bethany Lutheran Church on West Sample Street.


Walt’s wife Betty died in 2009, and it goes without saying how much he misses her. However, he still travels. “I have been fortunate to have the health and the money to do it,” he told me. “I was planning one of my trips to Wales where I was going to go alone, but my daughter got concerned. You see what you have to look forward to when you get older, Charlie!? Your kids tell you what to do! Well, I told her I would put a card in my wallet that read ‘If I die over here, ship my body back to South Bend.’ That didn’t go over so well with her.”

“My wife had died in May that year and my friend Shirley Pease had lost her husband in September,” Walt said. “For fifteen years we had all sat in the same Church pew and played Euchre. They had traveled with us on three trips. Well, when I was building my trip to Wales and my daughter was concerned, I told Shirley about it and she said, ‘I’ll go.’ I said, ‘Good deal!’ and we went on the trip.”


“I’m 87 and she is 79,” said Walt. “I’m seeing a younger woman! Actually, my kids had encouraged me to because they knew her so well. We have a lot in common. We both drink tea. We like the same foods. In Wales we get a lamb sandwich that is piled like they do at Arby’s with mint sauce and it is really good! In Wales there are 3000 people and 12,000 lambs, so you can eat lamb a lot! We have been to Wales and England twice, to Paris, and to Nassau.”

“Shirley has health problems,” Walt said. “She has Parkinson’s but she doesn’t shake so much like a lot of cases. She has had it for a long time. She does need to walk a lot so she is always getting on me to walk on the trips when sometimes I just want to ride, but it’s good for both of us. She volunteers at Memorial Hospital and heads up some of the Ushers at the Morris in South Bend.”


“I’ve got a good life….,” said Walt.

Charlie Adams

Inspirational Speaker, Group Travel Host

charlie@StokeTheFireWithin.com

Stoking the Fire Within…on the Ice!

Monday, March 5th, 2012

By Speaker Charlie Adams

The last time I went ice skating, all six foot six inches and two hundred and thirty five pounds of me fell when a little rug rat skater whizzed by me and knocked me off balance. I was moving at a speed of 1 mph at the time, if that, and the slightest tough by the ankle-biter skaters was enough to make me wobble. I fell like a ton of bricks, and have stuck to¬† speaking and writing ever since my “Timber!” experience! This past Sunday, though, I was able to witness real ice skaters and have the fire within me stoked by the story of Krista Kellner. That’s her on the left in the photo. She is an autistic teen skater.

Krista

I emceed an event called “Wish Upon a Star” at the University of Notre Dame that included the figure skating of Krista. The large crowd fell in love with her, her story, and the story of her coach.

The very special evening was put on by Logan Center, a non-profit that provides resources and opportunities for people with disabilities, and Notre Dame.

The picture is of Krista hugging her coach, Elizabeth O’Donnell. Elizabeth formed an organization known as Gliding Stars. She teaches adaptive ice skating for people with physical, mental, emotional or multiple challenges.

“Krista screamed her entire first year on ice,” Elizabeth told the audience before Krista came out, “but by age seven was skating at an intermediate level and by age eight, was an advanced ice skater.”

There was a time that there was no way Krista could have skated around an arena with a large crowd watching her perform. But little by little she made progress, and now performs around the country. On December 18th Krista will perform at “Musselman’s Applesauce Presents The Music of Seal on Ice,” at the Verizon Center in Washington, DC.

I met Krista and her coach before the performance and was truly inspired by her courage and determination. She said that skating helped her to discover her competitive spirit and strengthened her confidence in learning to live with autism. This high school student is in advanced Spanish and holds a A- average in most of her other classes. She loves to play the clarinet.

I feel you can be who you want to be when you skate,” says Krista. “I feel free on the ice. I can be who I want to be. I can do anything I want!”

Skating is what stokes the fire within her….

While introducing Krista, Coach O’Donnell said in reality we all have disabilities. It might be being impatient, or character issues, or not having realized our potential.

Another part of the evening that left lasting inspiration with me was TEAMWORK. The photo below is of the Notre Dame Figure Skating Club, young ladies from Notre Dame and St. Mary’s College that have won back to back gold medals at the Midwestern Championships of College Skating.

ND Figure Skating Club

When they skated as a group, it was remarkable! All of them in sync, soaring around the ice, as the audience roared! When I speak, I love talking about the power of team and what can happen when everyone truly works together. These young ladies are proof of it as their performance was flawless. Holding hands, they trusted each other as they skated forward, backwards and sideways!

Whether you are a Bank, Hospital, School or what-have-you, there is no limit to what you can accomplish when you truly grasp teamwork. These young ladies made history on February 5 of 2011, taking the gold medal at the prestigious Midwestern Synchronized Skating Championships. The Irish took the title for the first time in the history of Notre Dame’s skating program, which was founded in 1997.

Later, they performed individually. I about fell backwards when Chelsey Kelso performed. A first year Law Student at Notre Dame from New York, she was amazing on ice! It didn’t come easily, as she has been skating for 14 years. Today, she makes the time to study Law and perform at a high level of figure skating.

What a fire.

Charlie Adams, Speaker

charlie@StokeTheFireWithin.com

574.807.2279

Helping to Ignite People and Events

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