Features | Grandparent Stories

Getaway Grandparents: Meet Walter

Fun fact: every one of our tiny cabins is named for a grandparent – of a staff member, guest, or friend.

There’s something to learn from our grandparents, who taught us the timeless lessons in life, the value of time spent together, and for many of us, the importance of time outdoors.

Today, in honor of Veteran’s Day, meet Walter. Lizzie Sanderson, a guest at Getaway Blake Brook, shared the story of her incredible grandfather with us. His name proudly sits on a tiny cabin nestled in the Chattahoochee National Forest.

In her words:

My grandfather, known to all simply as “Pa”, loved more deeply than anyone I’ve ever met.  To me, he was just Pa. Society saw him differently, though. He was an Army veteran who served his country for decades. Pa was one of the first African-American men to take the role of a commanding officer in the U.S. Army during World War II and the Korea Conflict. He held the rank of 2nd Lieutenant in World War II and was a Captain in Korea, and was awarded the Purple Heart for being wounded at “Old Baldy” in North Korea.

I don’t have any memories of Pa telling me about his service; growing up, all I knew was that he’d served and then retired in 1964 with the rank of Major.  He had accomplished a profound feat while overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles. His career was long, storied, and widely successful. Pa had earned the respect of so many soldiers and inspired the two preceding generations to seriously consider enlisting.  Despite being a hero, Pa spent his time telling me about his family, and the love he had for languages. Pa was proud of his service, but he didn’t take pleasure in knowing he had caused deaths. I think he struggled with it as he grew older and more removed from the battles.

What I think of when I think of Pa, was his undying love for my grandmother, GG. Whilst deployed, Pa and GG corresponded through beautifully written letters. Think Noah in The Notebook, but with the poetic prowess of Dylan Thomas or Walt Whitman. It is nearly impossible to describe the love they shared, but it is felt deeply by the family they left behind. Pa kept everything. He stored laundry detergent bottles and old headphones alongside his meticulously, carefully, protected letters and photographs. He had countless photo albums, all full of images of his family. He had even more binders, organized chronologically, of the letters he and GG exchanged. It is truly remarkable to see his looping cursive as he wrote to celebrate the birth of his children. At his memorial service, I had the opportunity to read a passage from one letter. The sincerity in each word brought the room to tears.

Pa gave of himself all he could to his family, friends, and neighbors. He was the epitome of a good man and he raised his only son, my father, to be the same. On February 5th, 2017, Pa passed away in the home he had shared with his wife, the home in which he had raised his children. He was memorialized on February 18th, 2017 and celebrated then by his family, friends, and strangers. On January 30th, 2018 (GG’s birthday), Pa and his beloved GG were interred at Arlington National Cemetery. 3 generations of his family attended the ceremony, holding each other as we shook with tears and laid him to rest. He is gone, but his legacy remains ingrained in the hearts of the people whose lives he touched.

Share your grandparent’s story with us and they could have a tiny cabin named after them. Nominate your grandparent here.