Walter: Everywhere and Forever

08/23/2009 05:12 am 05:12:01 | Updated May 25, 2011

A lot is being written about this wonderful man who has left us, and there is little that I can add. But my memories are very precious.

We met just over 30 years ago, when I was a junior correspondent in the Paris bureau of CBS News. Walter came over to take the inaugural flight of the Concorde to New York, and file a report on it. I accompanied him to the airport, and we joked about stowing me away on board. No way.

When he came to Paris again, on another assignment, we went for a drink on the Champs-Elysees -- at an open-air cafe around the corner from our office. Every few minutes we were interrupted by American tourists, who had spotted him and came over to shake his hand. "You see, it's you who's attracting them!," he laughed. No way.

We met again when he visited Paris with Betsy, his beloved wife, and we had dinner together at a simple restaurant in my neighborhood. The French clientele didn't pay much attention, but the owner recognized him and asked him to sign the guest book. Graciously, he did.

We met again in Nairobi. I had just been on safari, and he was doing a story on tribal medicine and witch doctors, part of a series. He seemed fairly impressed by what he had learned. "There may be something to it," he said. Walter never dismissed a new idea, a new concept, a new viewpoint.

We met again in Vienna, after his retirement from CBS. He was reporting on the gala New Year's celebration and the New Year's Day concert for CNN, as he did for many years. He looked splendid in his tuxedo, but expressed regret that he had retired from the CBS newsdesk "too soon." Clearly, those cultural jaunts were fun, but too tame for this maestro.

Whenever I was in New York, we tried to get together. I remember a lovely lunch at the Russian Tea Room, where he had his special table. And a drink one afternoon at his favorite East Side bar, when he arrived limping due to a leg injury. There would be no tennis and sailing that summer.

And once, he called me and simply said, "Hello, Joan," and I absent-mindedly said, "Who's this?"

"Oh, my God!," he said. "She doesn't recognize my voice!"
"Walter!," I exclaimed. "I must be deaf!"

Will I ever forget that voice? No way.