Walter (Wally) Kirkwood Schwind of Fairfield, CT, passed away suddenly the evening of August 29, and assumed watch deck duties behind the eternal line. He will forever be tracking down new shakedowns and looking to recruit folks who enjoy a nice beverage, have a good sense of humor (helps to be a tad self-deprecating), treats everyone with respect (leave your title at the door, please) and revels in a good set of live tunes. Wally was born on May 2, 1961, in Alexandria, VA. His brief stay by the nation’s capital did not amount to a brush with politics as the Schwind family moved to CT in 1969 where Wally would live the majority of his life.
Wally was a pure athlete and excelled at basketball and tennis in particular. At the age of 12, he won the free throw shooting contest in his hometown of New Canaan, CT by hitting an impressive 91 of 100 free throws. He was an early innovator of the step back three as he was often seen canning long jumpers well beyond the top of the key (not technically threes as of yet as the NBA instituted the three-point line in ’79) over the likes of Billy Willy, Bezerkely, Babs and an occasional Dorse as a fill in while playing 21 (no blood no foul). His tennis game was a bit more fruitful than hoops and was about power and flair with his blue bandana wrapped across his forehead and around his blonde curly locks (probably a good play as it hid his severely oversized ears) that flowed well beyond the collar of his Boast shirt (think Johnny Mac-esque). Wally’s booming serve and volley game mixed with dreadfully inconsistent groundstrokes yielded an early sponsorship to Donnay (yes, the same as Bjorn), a junior national ranking, his name on the champion’s board at Woodway Country Club and a partial college scholarship in Florida.
Before we move onto college, I need to attempt to explain a peculiar phenomenon that occurred during Wally’s junior high school years that would shape and dictate his friendships for the remainder of his life. Starting with the five ballers I mention above, they seemingly would call each other the same name as a sign of acceptance, mutual respect, and probably because they were pumped that they had an actual crew to hang out with on a consistent basis: a mini confidence booster if you will. They all shared the same nomenclature of “Joe”, so you were referred to by either your nick name (full first names were never utilized) or Joe. Ultimately Wally had the first say if someone could be anointed a Joe or not and if you were then you were officially part of the crew. As always, he was quite inclusive of his younger brother, Scott, who was appropriately named Little Joe by the age of ten. This consummation of true friendships and Joe’s continued throughout Wally’s life including his wife Danielle who is firmly considered a Joe as they often referred to each other as such.
Wally’s admission to Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, FL, would shape his life not on an athletic basis but on a personal level as it was there where he would meet the love of his life, his best friend for eternity in Danielle Lynch. Wally lived in the Knox House dormitory that was essentially just short of a frat house of former jocks whose claim to fame was three consecutive campus street hockey championships. Wally and Danielle ran in similar circles and knew each other as distant acquaintances but did not have any romantic interludes during their time in college. It wasn’t until a random post college rendezvous in December of ‘86 at the Bowling Green subway stop in New York City where Danielle said, “Hey Gator” (Wally’s nickname from Knox House) and they swapped numbers. Soon after the subway conversation Wally called Danielle and told her he wanted to take her for lunch “under the umbrellas”. Intrigued by the vague invitation, Danielle accepted, and Wally promptly took Danielle out for a hot dog under the red umbrellas of the infamous NYC street vendor. Charming? Maybe. Provocative? Absolutely not, but creative enough to warrant a second date. 35 years later including 30 as genuinely the most compatible and happily married couple I have ever seen, the date under the umbrellas remained one of Wally’s favorite stories to tell about his courtship of Danielle.
Another passion in Wally’s life was the experience of live music. As a teenager in the 70’s, Wally saw the standard showcase of live concerts in Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Yes, Aerosmith, Bad Company and others. Yet in the swamps of New Jersey on 9/2/78 Wally witnessed the first ever concert at Giants Stadium with New Riders of the Purple Sage, Willie Nelson, and the Grateful Dead. Not only did Wally enjoy the improvisational tact of the Grateful Dead (including a very strong second set with a Scarlet/Fire that matches up quite favorably versus other standout versions of the combo) but he reveled in the communal atmosphere of the entire event. Actually, he was hooked. 200 plus combined shows later of the Dead and Jerry Garcia Band, one of Wally’s favorite activities was to travel to see Jerry and the boys on any occasion so he could and share the experience with friends and meet new acquaintances. Wally and his crew ventured beyond the improvisational sounds of the Grateful Dead, Allman Brothers, Widespread Panic, and Santana and were early movers on the likes of the Talking Heads, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Dixie Dregs and had acute interest in jazz fusion music including Jeff Beck, Frank Zappa, and the Mahavishnu Orchestra.
In today’s world where values such as integrity, authenticity, kindness and loyalty seem to be discounted, Wally remained a stand out, remaining true to those ideals throughout his whole life. He was a devoted husband, a loving brother and fiercely loyal friend. He was passionate for all things creative artistically and athletically and found some of his happiest moments exploring those arenas. Wally’s zest for life and boundless curiosity always enabled him to embark on new found adventures and explorations. Wally’s positive outlook on life, unselfish attitude and quick wit will be sorely missed by his friends and family.
He is survived by his wife Danielle, brother Scott Schwind, two sisters Suzanne Rodenbush and Georgia Bishop, five nephews and three nieces.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated Tuesday, September 7, 2021 at 11:00 a.m. meeting directly in Our Lady of the Assumption Church, 545 Stratfield Road, Fairfield. Interment will be private in Lawncroft Cemetery. A reception immediately following the Mass will be at Penfield Pavilion, 323 Fairfield Beach Road, Fairfield. Suggested attire – shorts and a tee shirt…
We are remembering Wally with a contribution to Bridgeport Field of Dreams Foundation (www.bridgeportfieldofdreams.org) as an expression of sympathy instead of flowers.
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Bridgeport Field of Dreams Foundation
c/o 379 Szost Drive, Fairfield CT 06824