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Obituary: Walter Wyckoff '49

Walter Shimer Wyckoff, 89, former president of A.B. Wyckoff Department Store in Stroudsburg, passed away peacefully and surrounded by his family on Dec. 25, 2012.

Walter Wyckoff was the fifth of Ernest Holt Wyckoff and Anna Seibert Wyckoff's six children. After the A.B. Wyckoff store closed, he worked for Ahnert Enterprises, working in the timeshare division, editing newsletters, and scouting potential campgrounds from Maine to the Shenandoah Valley to add to the time-share campground network. Ever energetic, gregarious and loved by everyone around him, he continued to work into his 80s as a medical courier, visiting doctor's and medical offices, and actively participating in church and numerous other volunteer activities.

Born in Stroudsburg on Nov. 15, 1923, he graduated from Stroudsburg High School, and Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. His college years were interrupted by service in World War II. Although Wyckoff's career in the Army Air Corps as a pilot ended after he survived a mid-air collision during training in Kansas, he persevered to return to active duty. On VE-Day (May 8, 1945), he set sail from New York Harbor for London, where he spent the immediate post-war years in the Signal Corps. He also spent three-months in Paris before his honorable discharge, and he vividly recalled his one-day viewing of the Nuremberg Trials.

Antioch College provided a progressive educational atmosphere, with its institutional commitment to full-time cooperative work projects that alternated off-campus working experiences with full-time study to support the link between theory and practice. A biology major, he was a student of botany and what we could now call environmental studies, as well as an aspiring artist, and Wyckoff completed working semesters at the Field Museum in Chicago (where he first met his future wife Migsey), and in Idaho with the National Forestry Department White Pine Blister Rust program.

The return trip to Stroudsburg from Idaho provided a memorable experience that (unlike his mid-air collision, which his children only learned about when he was in his 70s) he often recounted. Together with fellow student Russ Brown, he crossed the country with the hobos by rail, an exciting but also harrowing and sometimes dangerous experience. Following his graduation from Antioch, Wyckoff chose to return to Stroudsburg and the family department store, and marry his first wife Mary Elaine Roselle Wyckoff, known as Migsey. They lived first in Stroudsburg, and then, from 1955 in three successive homes in Shawnee-on-Delaware.

Migsey predeceased Walter in 1993. He married Pamela Moore Wyckoff of East Stroudsburg in 1997. She survives him, as do his three children, James, of Shawnee, Richard and his wife, Donna, of Brodheadsville, and Elizabeth and her husband, Gabriel, of Saint Louis, Mo. Four brothers and a sister also predeceased him: Alexander, William, Holt, Margaret Wells and Peter. He leaves behind five grandchildren: Teal, Claes, Rebecca, Jessica, and Emily; one great-grandson, Colton; and numerous nieces and nephews.

Walter Wyckoff became a merchant like his father and grandfather before him, but he also maintained lifelong interests in the visual and performing arts, the natural world, and the local history of the Pocono Mountains. For many years at A.B. Wyckoff, he organized the competitive annual art exhibitions in the department store's Keystone Room, which provided opportunities for local artists both amateur and professional. He never ceased to make and enjoy his own paintings, drawings, poems, and photographs, and he equally ceaselessly supported and followed the careers of local artists and craftsmen and women. He played the piano, enjoyed music of all kinds, and was a frequent visitor to the Deerhead Inn and local jazz festivals. He knew the back roads of Monroe County by heart, and hiked the trails from Shawnee and the Delaware Water Gap to Mount Pocono and beyond, always excited to identify a new fern or an old arrowhead. Wyckoff Glen on the Old Mine Road along the Delaware River in New Jersey was named in his honor by his friend and fellow botanist, Franklin Buser.

As a boy scout, he enjoyed spending summers at Camp Deerbone on Tocks Island, and trading patches at the 1939 Boy Scout Jamboree in Washington, D.C. A member of the Rotary Club during his years at A.B. Wyckoff, he also served as board member of Peter's Valley Craft Center in Layton, N.J. An active environmentalist, he was involved with the Brodhead Watershed Association, and served on the board of the Monroe County Redevelopment Authority. He was a devout and dedicated member of Shawnee Presbyterian Church, and served tirelessly for many years as an elder and Sunday school teacher. His long-running show on the Shawnee Presbyterian radio station continues to be rerun to this day.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 29, at Shawnee Presbyterian Church. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Shawnee Presbyterian Church; to the local Nature Conservancy office in Long Pond; or to Arbor Day.