Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

They all remember Walter, the smiling meter man

by John Halverson

May 24, 2012

I just walked in the office Wednesday morning. The papers were so hot off the press I hadn’t even seen one.

But Dorothy McLernon had. She was thrilled when she saw her father-in-law, Walter McLernon, as the jolly meter person in last week’s historical feature.

We expected someone would know his identity but not so quickly. Dorothy said Walter, who has since passed away, had been a policeman for Lake Geneva until he retired at the then-mandatory retirement age of 55. But Walter felt he was “too young to retire” and he loved to walk. So the city offered him a job as a meter man, following Corby Geise, who we are told was the city’s first meter man. That was in 1961.

The job, the personality and the timing were a match made in heaven, Dorothy recalled.

“It was the perfect job for him,” Dorothy said. “He was a wonderful person. So jovial.”

Walter’s family was well known in the community, too. His wife’s name was Alma and his children, from oldest to youngest are Dorothy’s husband Richard, Donald, Ella Ficker, Larry and Robert. Walter’s father was also a well-known Lake Geneva policeman who often had his dog at his side — the type of small-town idiosyncrasy you probably wouldn’t see today.

Lake Geneva’s very own fire chief Brent Connelly remembered Walter, too.

“When I grew up in town he was always one of the nicest guys in town when I was riding my bike on the street,” the chief said.

He said Walter and another policeman “always watched over me and took care of me.”

Also calling to identify the photo were Walter’s son Robert and his granddaughter Denise Gates who followed up with an e-mail:

Dear Mr. Halverson:

“That smiling officer is my grandfather, Walter McLernon. This picture seems to be from the early 60s, when getting a ticket was fun, and besides a ticket he might even have given you a piece of gum, and a good story. He was well known to spin a yarn and always had a pocket full of some type of candy or gum and more than willing to share. It is a very fond memory from those days when the streets weren’t that congested, you could still buy penny candy at the Woolworth’s on the corner, and see Shorty at the Sinclair gas station, where we often would get a soda. Thank you, John, for the trip down memory lane. He has been gone now for almost 25 years, and I still miss him..”

The final touch occurred as I crossed an intersection.

A man rolled down his window and yelled, “It was Walter McLernon!”

Who says Lake Geneva isn’t a small town anymore?