While America lost a legendary journalist and beloved voice with the death of Walter Cronkite last Friday, Mystic Seaport has lost a dear friend.
In addition to the numerous and remarkable career highlights we’ve been reminded of this week, Cronkite was also an avid sailor, a member of the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary, with the honorary rank of commodore, and a longtime trustee of Mystic Seaport. Former Mystic Seaport President and Director J. Revell Carr took a few moments to recall the Walter Cronkite that he knew.
“Walter truly loved the ‘mystique’ of Mystic Seaport – he loved coming in on his yacht Wyntje, tying up at the Cruising Club Dock and just wandering around. Like so many others visiting by boat, he reveled in the Museum after the other visitors had left. He allowed himself to drift back in time among the evocative images of Mystic Seaport at twilight or dawn. On one occasion, as I made my way down to visit with him after the Museum had closed, I found him standing on the dock with a video camera, making his own home movie of Mystic Seaport. I made some remark about the ageless scene before him as I approached and he made me back up and repeat the words and the approach to be recorded by his camera.
Walter Cronkite aboard his yacht Wyntje.
Obviously, he was a man of endless curiosity who was fascinated by the Museum’s exhibitions but who enjoyed even more glimpses into the stored collections with the myriad of wonders from paintings and models to bizarre curiosities.
He was always responsive when we called on him to contribute his image and voice to films about Mystic Seaport. While his schedule made it difficult to regularly attend Board meetings, he participated in the Museum’s activities whenever he could. At a Mystic Seaport benefit auction held at Sotheby’s in New York, various celebrities got up and auctioned items. Peter Yarrow, of the singing group Peter, Paul and Mary, had just gotten the audience, including most of our Trustees to sing “Puff the Magic Dragon” and then sold an autographed copy of one of his albums for some vast price. Next up was Walter, who said, “Obviously, the way to get really large bids is to sing!” Walter then sang the description of the reticulated ivory box he was to auction, to the delight of the audience and the significant benefit of Mystic Seaport. A rare moment.
Walter Cronkite in front of the Charles W. Morgan at Mystic Seaport.
On an occasion when he was at a Board meeting in the Munson Room, toward the end of the meeting, amid nearly fifty people virtually all clad in blue blazers, Walter got up and went into a fairly long oration about the group and their attire, but no one could figure out where it was leading. Ultimately he got to the point that someone was “out of uniform” and produced a blazer button that he had found on his way into the room. A perfect way to end a long morning of intense work by the Board.
Walter was just a regular guy, who had casual conversations with those moored around him or people he encountered in the Seamen’s Inne. Once when he had spent the night at my house, we stopped in the Old Mystic Store where he picked up the New York Times and chatted amiably with the astonished store clerk. Just a regular guy.”