Cover photo for Walter Shannon's Obituary
Walter Shannon Profile Photo
1923 Walter 2021

Walter Shannon

October 31, 1923 — June 26, 2021

WALTER RAWLINGS SHANNON was born October 31, 1923, in Hunting Park, California. A sixth generation Californian. The 5th of 6 children of Thomas J. P. Shannon and Virginia Rawlings.

Walter grew up in the town of Bell, an eastern suburb just outside of Los Angeles. His father, Thomas J.P. Shannon, was a motorcycle police officer, one of the original silent movie "Keystone Cops", and Thomas built the 1st radio station in California. Walter's mother Virginia was a dedicated wife & mother that could ride a 1915 Indian Motorcycle with the best of them and lovingly take care of a family of 6 children.

Walter's great grandmother (Josephine Pfeiffer) was one of the pioneers of Redlands, California, an area where later Walter would move and go to college after his parents had taken over the Pfeiffer Ranch; 16 acres of orange groves in Colton/Riverside. The Pfeiffer Ranch became the meeting grounds for all the Shannon families and a unique playground for their kids. Many fond memories of the ranch stay with me, my brother and my cousins to this day.

Walter as a young lad, taking after his inventor/adventurer father, also enjoyed making things. For example, at around 7 Walter made a cannon out of paper rolls and things in the garage. He found his father's black powder and a fuse and proceeded to shoot "something" out of the home-made cannon at the garage. Just a young boy having fun in the 30's. What Walter didn't expect was that he'd blow a big hole through the garage wall and put a large dent into his father's car! It's my understanding if it wasn't for Virginia, Walter would never have been able to sit again. I cringed every time he told that story to our kids at the dinner table.

Walter enjoyed art through his formative years. He was a pretty good self-taught artist, in fact he won 1st prize of 25¢ in a drawing contest. That was more than enough incentive to pursue his artistic endeavors through high school, college and beyond. As a point of reference, he'd wash cars on the weekends, at the local gas station, for 50¢ a DAY so a quarter was a windfall.

Walters's eighteenth birthday came as World War II was raging in Europe, North Africa, the Far East and the Pacific Ocean, and by 1943 he was serving in the United States Army at 19 under General George Patton. Walter was shipped to England where preparations were being made for the Invasion of Europe. When the Invasion finally came, Walter was with the troops that fought their way eastward through France and Germany. Walter was on the 6th troop carrier that stormed Omaha beach (remember the opening of "Saving Private Ryan"?) better known as V-Day. Walter received 5 bronze stars and a silver star for his war efforts during Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge.

Shortly after the war Walter married Verna May Stockman, and bought a home in Norwalk CA in 1950. There they raised 2 boys, Gary Walter and Richard Michael Shannon. Around 1963 they moved to La Mirada CA and became very involved in the City of La Mirada and the La Mirada Arts Colony. Walter and Verna were both very artistic and civic minded and helped to grow the little arts colony in the 70's into the renowned Fiesta de Artis, which for a while rivaled in both content and esteem that of the Laguna Arts Festival. They were instrumental in the design of the La Mirada City Hall and the La Mirada Civic Theater and many consider their work to have put the city of La Mirada on the map. (For which Walter received a commemorative plaque).

Walter loved to dance. When his first marriage ended, he was feeling very down as expected. Rik was playing in night clubs as a professional musician, so in an effort to boost Walter's spirits, Rik invited him to come see the band. Walter enjoyed it so much that he would frequent the club most nights, dancing up a storm, he made friends at every gig.

Walter married Geraldine Harris in 1978 and traveled throughout California and the United States for years until they landed in Minnesota, where they stayed with Gerry's daughter, Lynette and her two kids. When Geraldine passed away about 16 years ago, Susan and Rik had Walter come visit for several weeks. At the end of that time, we asked if he wanted to move back to California to live with us and said let me think about it, the next day he said yes and never went back. He had lived with us for over 15 years.

At that time, Rik was playing again, in a country rock band called Big Red Sky, now much older, Walter wasn't sure if he could dance anymore, so Rik said, well, come on down and give it a shot or just enjoy the music. Later before the weekend he came to me and said, "you need to take to me to the store.... I said, what do you need Pop? His reply was in his typical Walter sense of humor..., I need a cowboy hat and boots before the next gig."

Walter, a very snappy dresser, always in a suit and tie in the latest fashion and fedora, friendly and social, found the Whittier Senior Center, where he instantly made lots of friends and found a very special girlfriend in Ernestina Delgado. They took to each other quickly and found something you may not think would happen in your late 80's, they found love.

They loved to go to the Radisson Hotel, have dinner together, hear the music play in the event rooms and crash a wedding or two. They were always welcomed even though the wedding party didn't know them. Always dressed to the 9s they were always welcome wherever they went. And not just weddings, birthday parties, anniversaries, any occasion with cake and ice cream, they were special guests. When they'd go to a local mall, strangers would ask if they could take their picture with them. Together, they were a hit and enjoyed the small-town celebrity. I was very happy for him, he lived at times, a pretty rough life, and now he was finally enjoying all that a carefree life had to offer. That's something for which I'll always be grateful.

Through the years Walter developed an excellent artistic talent, and was especially good at oil, charcoal and pastel portraits. Walter was a prolific artist sometimes completing as many as 3 portraits in 1 day. He won several awards and ribbons in both the Arts Colony and Senior Center Art Shows.

As he slowed down and it became harder to paint and draw, Walter and Ernestina turned to drawing in coloring books and sharing crayons together.

Walter Shannon was the luckiest man in the world. I've called him that forever, because it's true. He made it through some of the hardest war campaigns in history without a scratch, he lived and found love multiple times in his life, I think he won about every drawing he entered, and when it was time to move on, it was gentle, without pain and with family by his side.

So, here's to Walter Rawlings Shannon, you can say you knew the luckiest man in the world.

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