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In Memory - Classmates

Valerie Walton

Diane McChesney Parfitt

I  wanted to remember Valerie Walton to our classmates. Valerie went to Somerset Elementary early on and then moved and came to Chevy Chase Elementary. She and I became fast friends right away and played together as young girls. When we went to Leland Junior High we all knew that she would be the one to do the solo of O Holy Night at the Christmas Assembly when we got to 9th grade. And she did. She was a beautiful girl both inside and out and had a gorgeous singing voice.

We were not as close at BCC but I knew she went on to college at Swarthmore. By my sophmore or junior year  of college my mother told me she had dropped out because of an illness. We never knew what it was until she passed away in April of our senior year of college in 1968. She had a rare autoimmune disorder that affected her lungs and kidneys primarily.

I was home for spring break from UVA and my mother and I visited her family at home. It was so very sad to see them as they grieved over the much too early death of their beautiful daughter. Dorothy (Thea) Smith and I went to the funeral and there were several other people from BCC. Because everybody's spring break was at a different time not everybody was home at that time.

Valerie is not on the list of classmates (since added) and I want to make sure we remember her. She was one of us and a special one at that. We were all about 21-22 when she died. Some of us had experienced the death of an older relative or even a parent. I was in nursing school and I had experienced the death of patients. But Valerie was the first person my age who had died and it was very surreal. 

I hope some of you remember her with the fond memories that I have.


Barbara Gutheim Isham

Diane, I also spent so much time playing with Valerie.  She looked like Elizabeth Taylor.  She was in my brownie troop.  Last time I saw her was in a shop in Georgetown.  She looked so different and she died shortly after.

Ellen Footer Winston

I remember Valerie. She was beautiful. Dark hair and rosy cheeks. We were friendly and I remember her singing the solo of "Oh, Holy Night." I remember learning of her death and feeling so sad. 

It's hard to imagine, as a parent, losing a child of any age. Thanks for bringing back the memories. 

Helen Lambie Goldstein

Diane, Barbara Gutheim mentioned Valerie Walton back on p. 5, and I didn't say anything then, but must now. I knew Valerie slightly at Leland, but for high school she went to private school. She called me after graduation to get together with a couple of other girls who lived in the area who were all going to Beaver College in the fall. In September we headed off to Beaver and ended up living a room away from each other in our dorm (which was a replica of a castle in Wales). Valerie was so beautiful that she was always surrounded by boys when we went to mixers or to fraternity parties at Penn. She was also very funny and would go into gales of laughter, snorting between laughs, which would make us all laugh even harder. On April 23,1965 she had a date with a fellow I had introduced her to. I was sick in bed with a cold, but she came into my room and convinced me to come with her for a blind date with her date's roommate. We took the train into Philadelphia where I was introduced to my future husband. So Valerie holds a very special place in my heart. Though we got divorced after 21 years, I owe my two wonderful children to her. She didn't come back to Beaver after freshman year, and soon after became ill. When I got married the summer after Junior year, she was too ill to attend, and the following spring I received a phone call from a friend at Beaver telling me of her death. I remember feeling terribly guilty that I was happily married, thanks to her introduction, and she was gone. I shall always remember Valerie.


Diane McChesney Parfitt

Helen, thank you so much for clearing up some forgotten memories on Valerie. I hated that I lost touch with her in high school and what a terrible thing to forget that she went off to boarding school. You are right, she was such a beautiful person in so many ways. My mother saw more of her when she dropped out of college because of illness when she came home so most of what I know I learned from her. I'm so glad you had those experiences with her and can help fill in the gaps. I guess I just look back at my BCC experience and all of my Chevy Chase experiences run together. Valerie was such a big part of my life through Leland and I know I lost contact with her but I really had forgotten she went to boarding school. Again, Helen, thanks for sharing your experiences with Valerie.

Elena Jurgela

Diane, thank you so much for your beautiful words about Valerie Walton.  I remember her so fondly, and I didn't know she had passed away.  She was certainly taken too soon.  She was a beautiful person, inside and out.  I hope that at our reunion, we will be able to have a moment and a prayer to remember our deceased classmates.


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07/10/14 11:27 AM #1    

Jennifer Harting (Christian)

I also remember Valerie's stunning natural beauty -- both her physical make-up and the spontaneity and vitality that shone out of her.  In junior high, when we 11 to 14 year olds started experimenting with make-up, I recall thinking that it detracted from Valerie rather than enhanced her stunning loveliness -- precisely because it was artifice.   I think my dad noticed her obituary and sent it to me -- because he worked at NIH and she was treated there.  I believe the cause of death was a very rare fungal disease (probably the kind that take advantage of an immune defect.)  A lovely ill-fated and blighted rose that never got to come into its fullest bloom.

07/14/14 01:01 PM #2    

Marilyn Alperstein (Unger-Riepe)

Thank You ,Diane, for bringing Valerie Walton's memory into our reunion. I think she might have started at BCC and then transferred  to private school. She was a beautiful person inside and out-  thoughtful, sensitive, humble and fun. I considered her a close friend. We both shared a frustration that in high school we were not able to settle down and work to our potential to make manifest our true "brilliance".  She was very pleased with private school, where she was given the structured time and attention she needed to do her homework.  She encouraged me to join her.  I was very excited about joining Valerie and this hope for a solution to my problem. My mother, however, vetoed the idea and I was very, very disappointed  Not long after that, I lost touch with her and then was shocked and saddened, like all of us, to learn of her tragically untimely death. I couldn't make sense of the injustice of such an extraordinarily good person loosing her life so young. 

09/12/14 08:09 AM #3    

Sue Erickson (Mccarl)

Valerie and her family were most amazing..we sanf together at st,johns in bethesda..john spalding was ourchoirmaster..Music was where our hearts and lives met...the lasttime i saw her was aT st. Johns..many of sang in the choir for years..our other times together were in orchestra she on the viola and me with my violin..mr damron is still teaching in delaware...tim eddy is playing his cello in new york...some of us continue to sing..thank heaven for our music..

09/13/14 07:53 PM #4    

Susan Johnson (Penny)

I vividly remember the last time I saw Valerie Walton,  We were both working in Georgetown. I was a dark room technician for a local photographer and although I wasn't aware of it, Valerie was working in a shop nearby.  One lunch time I went into the shop and was greeted with tremendous warmth by a young woman who knew my name, but who I couldn't quite recognise.  She was already greatly changed by her illness. Valerie told me how very unwell she was and that she'd spent a great deal of time at NIH while they searched for a definite diagnosis. All I could think was how horribly unfair that this beautiful kind lovely girl should have this happen.  As we talked she held on to my hand.  She told me what hours she worked and we arranged to meet again.  But when the day came she wasn't there and sadly I never saw her again.

Valerie and I were about 13 when we first met. My most outstanding memory of her is that she was just an exceptionally nice girl - kind and friendly and non-judgemental.  Valerie was funny and clever and a great friend.  I spent my junior high and high school years as one of the greatest social misfits of all time. I felt lucky to have a friend like Valerie. Over time I have thought of her often. It seems an under statement to say she was taken far far too soon,

Susan Johnson Penny



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