1923 – 2012
former long-time resident of the Prescott area in eastern Ontario
Suddenly yet peacefully on March 19 at Fairview Manor in Almonte, Ontario at the age of 89 years. Walter leaves behind his loving and devoted wife of 65 years, Elisabeth “Liesl” Fischer; his three children Hank Hofmann (Marian) of Ottawa, Lucy Carleton (Neil) of Almonte, and Shirley Hofmann (Jean-Maurice Rossel) of Neuchatel, Switzerland; and treasured grandchildren Laura, Sarah Jane “Jennie”, Ian, Lena and Carlo.
Walter was born in the small village of Bärringen in Sudetenland, the German-speaking area in western Czechoslovakia, in 1923. He knew Elisabeth, who was also from Bärringen, for over 80 years – first as childhood friend, then as sweetheart and finally as husband and wife. Their love and devotion saw them through the twists and turns of life, from the turbulence of World War II – and the subsequent expulsion from their homeland – to the long journey of re-establishing themselves in Canada, arriving at Pier 21 in Halifax in the winter of 1949 with little more than a suitcase, a violin and a feather duvet.
Next to Elisabeth, music was the central passion of Walter’s life. Growing up in a musical family, he learned the violin at a young age. During World War II, he was a trumpeter in the military band of the Czech Free Army which formed part of the Allied Forces stationed in England. The band played numerous concerts to entertain the troops and even performed for Winston Churchill.
Once settled in Prescott, he continued his love for music by playing in and later conducting the Prescott Citizens’ Band. He also performed regularly in eastern Ontario with numerous local bands playing the music of the big band era. In the mid-1950s, he became the itinerant public school music teacher in the County of Leeds and Grenville, sharing his love of music with hundreds of young children in one-room schoolhouses throughout the region.
In the late 1950’s, he established an innovative and highly regarded music program at South Grenville District High School in Prescott. He founded an all-girls marching band and several stage bands and concert bands, all of which toured and performed highly successful concerts throughout eastern Ontario, elsewhere in North America and in Germany. Walter also established the annual Maifest celebration in Prescott. In later years, he was instrumental in establishing the Fort Town Concert association, a voluntary community effort dedicated to presenting classical music in Prescott. In 1971, he was awarded the Prescott Citizen of the Year Award.
Walter’s love for music never faltered. In retirement, he continued his love of music by practising and performing with his children and grandchildren. In 2010, he was inducted into the Brockville Music and Performing Arts Hall of Fame.
Throughout his life, Walter’s greatest pleasure came from enriching the lives of those around him with music.
Friends and relatives are invited to pay respects to Walter at the Irvine Memorial Chapel 2451 Maitland Road, Maitland, Ontario, on Saturday, April 7, 2012 from 12:00 noon until 1:30 p.m. when a ceremony in celebration of his life will take place in the Chapel. Interment will take place at Roselawn Memorial Gardens followed by a reception.
In lieu of flowers, donations to the Almonte General Hospital – Fairview Manor Foundation would be greatly appreciated. Condolences, donations and tributes may be left at www.irvinememorial.com
Walter’s family wish to extend a sincere thank you to the staff of Fairview Manor in Almonte, Ontario, for their outstanding care, their support and their kindness during the 2½ years that Walter was a resident there, and especially during the last days of his life.
We miss you, Dad. We miss you, Opa. ‘s feieromd.
“Bewahre im Herzen die kostbare Erinnerung an die Heimat”