Happy Birthday, Cousin Walter

Family stories from former KC Mayor Kay Barnes

   Walter Cronkite would have been 98 on Nov. 4. The revered CBS anchorman always called himself a Kansas City guy, so it’s only proper for 435 Magazine to mark his birthday.

   To do so, we got help from Cronkite cousin and former Kansas City Mayor Kay Barnes. Here are some anecdotes she shared with us.

   “When (wife) Betsy was asked by Parade Magazine why her husband seemed to be liked by everybody, her answer was both funny and probably true. She said, ‘I think it’s because he looks like everyone’s dentist. Both his father and grandfather were dentists, you know.’”

   “My first memory of Walter in person was in ’46. I’m 8 years old. I remember Walter getting out of the car in front of my home. He was just returning from covering the Nuremberg (war crimes) trials. He opened his clenched fist, and there was a tiny camera. As I recall, he used it to take some pictures there although photography had been banned.”

   “He was always sensitive about the feelings of others. He was visiting St. Joseph after two years in Russia as a correspondent. We were with the family on a Sunday afternoon. I was sent to the kitchen to get some water while someone told an off-color story. Walter was concerned about my feelings and didn’t think it was right for me to be sent from the room for any reason.

   “He showed respect for everyone. He was speaking at an event on the Country Club Plaza, but he made it a point to ask to go to the kitchen first to shake hands with the chef, waiters and waitresses.”

   “Walter was comfortable with his fame. He was once on a ferry from Martha’s Vineyard to Hyannis to pick up a sailboat after repairs. Walter was tired, so he laid down on a bench and took a short nap. He woke up to find a group of Cub Scouts just staring down at him. He immediately sat up, smiled and engaged them in a conversation.

Categories: People