Today I had the privilege of attending the funeral of a legend of the Ames community. Marvin J. Walters came back to the Ames community in 1968 after a 5 year start to his working career in Chicago. He went to Iowa State University as so many young people from Iowa do, and then he left Iowa to seek his fortune as so many young people do. But then he did something very strange and unusual that really made him stand out. He chose to come back to the community that had given him so much and he never left again. He built so many businesses and grew the community of Ames so much. In fact I did not realize how fully until earlier today.
Here I was sitting in St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church and I just continued to watch the church fill to capacity. There was so many people who I knew from my past that I never expected to see. Past professors, past ISU athletes, owners of all kinds of businesses around the Ames area, even the ISU president was there. Each of the lives of the people in this crowded church on this very hot June day had been touched by this man.
As I listened to people telling their stories and remembrances of the life Marv lived, I realized two things. The first is that we had a very similar background growing up. We were both raised on farms in small town Iowa. We both were involved in 4-H and saw the benefits it has to children growing up. We both came to Iowa State University to attend college and we both got our degrees in Animal Science from the College of Agriculture. We both were in the Alpha Gamma Rho Fraternity during our years at Iowa State. We both share a great love for Cyclone Athletics, the university as a whole, and the community of Ames. We also both shared a strong devotion to God. Sure we had our distinct differences as people, but wow, we really had a lot of similar interests.
The other thing I realized is that for several years now, I have had the opportunity to pick the brain of one of the most successful businessmen in Ames and I never took the time to do it. To be honest, that makes me really sad and disappointed in myself.
In October of 2008, a time when I was unemployed, going through a divorce, living at home in Waterloo, and probably at one of the lowest points in my life, Marv took a chance on me. The opportunity came from my hometown vet, Dr. Jim Grover who would fish with Marv in the summers. Marv told Dr. Grover that he was looking to hire someone to head his biomedical department at W&G Marketing Co. (a company Marv had started with partner Jerry Grauf over 30 years ago). Dr. Grover told Marv about me and how I was looking for an opportunity and looking desperately to get back to the Ames community. From that conversation, a job interview was set up and I was given a job. Marv took a chance on me when others would not and he helped bring my life out of the deep pit it was in. For that I will be forever grateful.
My job has been very good. I get to travel all around the country and I have developed lasting relationships with so many different and unique people. I never would have envisioned doing the job I do now, but what a blessing it has been in my life. Thank you so much Marv!
I had heard so many rumors and here say about the person Marv was. Everyone agreed that he was an amazing businessman, but people used words such as ruthless, controlling, unapproachable, and greedy to describe him. By the way people talked, you would think he was the Scrooge of Ames. I can’t recall a time that he ever actually showed any of those traits to me personally, but I just accepted everyone else’s opinion as being fact without ever taking the time to find out for myself. I am also very ashamed to admit, that I contributed to that persona a few times with words I spoke about him.
I recall a Friday afternoon last fall when Marv needed help with getting a new hitch put on his trailer. I was the one who was not busy in the office so I was sent over to the stables in the company truck. Marv met me there and we spent a couple of hours together that afternoon taking the trailer and getting a new hitch put on that trailer. It was a beautiful afternoon and I really enjoyed Marv’s company. He was very friendly. Still, I never took the time to really get to know him better.
Today, at the service, Father Jon Seda likened Marv. to the “Mr. Bailey of Ames.” You know, Mr Bailey from It’s a Wonderful Life. How Ames would be a much different place if it had not been for Marv. Marv did so much for the Ames community and despite his sometimes rough exterior, was a soft and kind heart filled with love and pride for his God, family, and community. That is when it hit me. I had been totally wrong about Marv. Here was this great man, who I worked for and I never really took the time to get to know him. It just shows that some of the greatest treasures can be right under our noses and we never take the time to ever really find them because at the time we are not looking for them. So is the case with me and Marv a great treasure to the city of Ames that has gone from this world forever.
I missed my chance with Marv, but I guarantee you that in the future, I will take the time to get to know someone before I ever pass judgement on them or accept other people’s opinions. Isn’t it funny how some of the greatest lessons we learn in this lifetime come on the heels of our own ignorance and mistakes.
Today is a day of mixed emotions. I am sad because someone great is no longer with us. I am happy because I finally understand that he was a great man and I can fully celebrate his life. I am thankful for all the kind words that were spoken about Marv today that made me see the light and finally understand. Most of all, I am thankful to God, for giving me a gentle nudge and reminding me how far I have to go yet in my quest to live a life-like Jesus would and yet, he still loves me anyway. Amazing!
On this day, we remember the life of Marvin J. Walter. Thanks for everything Marv!
Marvin J. Walter
Marvin J. Walter of Ames died Wednesday, June 1, after an eight year struggle with multiple myeloma.
Marv was born on August 22, 1940 to parents, Regina and Ralph Walter. He was raised on a farm near Watkins, Iowa and graduated high school in Blairstown in 1958. He received two degrees in Animal Science at Iowa State University in 1962 and 1964.
Marv married Janice Gordon Walter on September 19, 1964. They spent five years in Chicago where Marv first worked for the American Meat Institute, then as a commodity broker on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. In 1968 they came back to start a meat related business with two partners. Over the years he operated Carriage House Meat, Provision Company and several affiliated businesses. On the state and national level, Marv was involved in several organizations related to the livestock and meat industry.
Marv and Jan have two daughters, Allyson (David Sprague) Walter, Jewell, Iowa and Stacy (Bill) Woodward, of Ames. He is also survived by three grandsons, Rob Doud, Billy Woodward and Grant Woodward.; to step-grandchildren, Samantha Sprague and Jacob Sprague; a brother, Russell (Sharon) Walter, Norway, IA; sisters, Patricia (David) Jansma, Waco, TX and Kathy (Jim) Flemister, Plant City, FL, as well as, several nieces and nephews.
Marv was a very active member of the community, serving on boards and in organizations. He has for a number of years been on the First National Bank board and Chairman of the Board of Ames National Corporation. He was a Rotary member and President, served a number of years on the board of Mary Greeley Medical Center. He was a member of Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity and cherished the lifelong friendships he made as a fraternity member. He was inducted into the National Alpha Gamma Rho Hall of Fame. He worked closely with active members of the fraternity every year.
Marv was involved in many Iowa State activities. He was on the Board of Governors and received the Order of the Knoll award for Distinguished Service. He also received the Floyd Andre award for Distinguished Service to Agriculture. He served as president of the ISU Alumni Association.
Marv had a special interest in young people and supported the 4-H programs. He was a member of St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Ames.
Marv loved tennis, golf, horseback riding, and spending time with family and grandchildren, at Clear Lake and Fountain Hills, AZ. He always wanted to be busy and on the move.
Visitation will be held on Monday, June 6, from 3 to 7 p.m. at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, 2210 Lincoln Way, Ames with a 7 p.m. vigil service. A mass of Christian burial will be 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, June 7 at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church with Father Jon Seda officiating.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Ag Pavilion Project/ISU Foundation or to Bliss Cancer Center at McFarland Clinic, 1111 Duff Ave., Ames.
Online condolences may be made to www.grandonfuneralandcreamationcare.com
Grandon Funeral and Cremation Care is assisting the family.
Published in Des Moines Register on June 5, 2011