Growing up during the days of the Great Depression, Walter helped support his family from a very young age, eventually enlisting in the U.S. Navy during World War II where he participated in the first wave of attacks on Omaha and Normandy beaches, and subsequently served tours in North Africa and East Asia. [He was a communications specialist in seven landings, which meant he was one of the first on the beach helping to direct the following waves of troops -- and he was only 17 or 18.]
Following the War, Walter attended Springfield College in Springfield, MA, and, upon graduation, accepted a football coaching position at Valparaiso University.During his tenure as "Coach," Walter led the Crusaders to its only bowl game in VU's history, coaching such legends as Fred "Fuzzy" Thurston (Green Bay Packers) and earning hall-of-fame status in 2001.Walter was given leave from his coaching duties to serve his country during the Korean War.In 1952, he returned to VUand married the love of his life, his partner, his "Schatz" (treasure), and wife of 54 years, Lois (Bertram) Reiner.
In the early 1960s, Walt was asked by former VU President, O.P. Kretzmann to begin the Youth Leadership Training Program, which sought to connect young people to programs serving the broader community and world.
In 1965, Walt moved his family to Chicago where he served as Director of Prince of Peace Volunteers, guiding 34 teams of volunteers in U.S. inner cities and overseas, whose work was captured in the documentary film, "I BELIEVE," aired on NBC in 1966.
During the 1960s, Walt supported Vietnam War Conscientious Objectors and became a civil rights activist in his own right.Hisleadership activities and commitment to human rights sustained him through a heresy trial before the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod in 1967.From 1960 through 1968, Walt served as Director of Camp Concordia, a Lutheran [summer] camp in Gowen, Michigan.
During the late sixties, Walt was a founder of the Association of the Colleges of the Midwest's Urban Studies Program in Chicago, offering students at Valparaiso University, as well as a consortium of liberal arts colleges, the opportunity to truly experience the diversity of the city and to connect with those who were creatively addressing issues of racism, poverty, violence and other issues faced by thousands of people on a daily basis.
Returning to Valparaiso in 1969, Walt and Lois Reiner founded Valparaiso Builders Association, a predecessor organization to Project Neighbors, whose primary mission was, and continues to be, partnering with families in need to relocate toValparaiso, offering a new sense of community in which all of its citizens learn from and respect diversity.
In developing these new relationships, particularly in and around the Hilltop neighborhood, Walt turned his attention toward other projects that impact people's lives, including the development of Maria Elena's restaurant, the creation of top quality child care and medical/dental care at Hilltop Neighborhood House and Hilltop Community Health Center, the Village Market, and the latest, the Reiner Community Center.
Walt promoted the generosity of the larger community and demonstrated unfettered, energetic volunteerism, serving, with Lois, as the vital catalysts for relationship-building in their local community by "thinking globally and acting locally."
In 1991, Walt "retired" from his formal teaching duties as associate professor emeritus of Valparaiso University's Christ College.In that same year, Walt was the co-winner of the University's Martin Luther King award, sharing the honor with his "brother," Karl E. Lutze.
The following year, Walt was awarded the "Sagamore of the Wabash," the highest honor given to a resident of the State of Indiana for lifetime service.More recently in this year, Walt and Lois were named volunteers of the year by the Porter County Community Foundation.
Walt was predeceased by his brother, Otto Reiner, and more recently in September of this year, by his brother Dr. Ernest Reiner, co-founder of the Judeo-Christian Health Center in Tampa Florida.
Walt does not want us to forget his messages translated into a lifetime of action, of building relationships and taking risks, all while keeping a sense of humor in taking one day at a time.His credo, he often said, was, "when you give up the need for power, reputation and money, you have the whole world open to you."There will be a private family burial in the Memorial Park Cemetery of Valparaiso followed by a celebration of Walt's abundant life at Immanuel Lutheran Church on Friday, December 29 (his 83rd birthday) at Immanuel Lutheran Church at 2:00 p.m., followed by a reception in the school's gymnasium.Walt andhis family ask that all memorials be made to Project Neighbors, 408 Lafayette, Valparaiso, Indiana 46383, to carry on Walt's mission and legacy.
Thursday Theology #448
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