Tonight’s news of the death of Walter Cronkite reminds me of one of my favorite stories about my dad, who was close to the same age as Cronkite and who passed away at the age of 91 last December.
My father was an educated man, an admiralty lawyer as well as an amateur musician. He traveled in very interesting circles – but he did not watch much TV.
Some time in the 1970s, I think it was, back when Walter Cronkite was the most recognized man in America, that my parents attended a big event featuring many celebrities and dignitaries. As they mingled, my mother stood on one side of the room and Dad was on the other.
Mom looked across the room and saw Dad having a conversation with a group of people including Walter Cronkite.
And she knew Dad probably didn’t know who Walter Cronkite was.
So she sidled herself across the room and joined in on the conversation just in time to hear this exchange between my father and Walter Cronkite.
Cronkite: “I find the origins of people’s last names very intriguing. Take my last name, for example. It derives from---"
Dad: “What is your last name?”
The looks on the faces in the group must have been priceless.
But Cronkite apparently was very gracious, said his name, and explained that it derives from the same source as “chronic” and had something to do with medicine.
Somehow my father had managed not to recognize the most recognized man in America. I like to believe that Cronkite found it refreshing.
Rest in peace, Mr. Cronkite.