by Amanda Loviza
COS COB, CT – There’s a story behind every person, philanthropist Walter Scherr says, and he has worked hard to make sure the story of one particular World War II soldier has lived on, despite his tragic death at Normandy so many years ago.
One of the namesakes behind the Hurleyville Maker’s Lab, Mr. Scherr has been giving back to caretakers and protectors for more than a decade, inspired by the sacrifices of those who fought in World War II when Mr. Scherr himself was unable.
Born in Queens in 1924, Mr. Scherr was not quite old enough to join the Army when the U.S. entered World War II after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Six months later, Mr. Scherr went straight from his high school graduation to the local enlistment office, expecting to make his heroic mark on the war. Instead, he was stopped in his tracks with a diagnosis of active tuberculosis, a disease that was incurable at the time. Young Mr. Scherr was quarantined in a sanatorium for the next seven years, while his peers fought for American freedoms.
After making a full recovery from tuberculosis, Mr. Scherr jumped into a corporate career and found success introducing the fax machine worldwide and making groundbreaking advancements in data storage. Mr. Scherr met Mother Teresa, traveled the world, gained, lost, and regained a fortune.
Two years ago, while writing his autobiography, “Walter’s Way: How a Relief Kid Survived TB, Corporate Betrayal, Bankruptcy, Made Millions, and Touched the Lives of Billions,” Mr. Scherr began to look for someone from his childhood neighborhood of Ozone Park who had given his life during the D-Day invasion of Normandy. It was important to Mr. Scherr to form a personal connection to the tragedy of the war.
Mr. Scherr found Pvt. Francis Nelson Bowen, who was living in Ozone Park, just like Scherr, when he enlisted in the Army. Pvt. Bowen was engaged to Ada Murphy when he went overseas to fight with the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment. He never came home. Serving as a medic, Pvt. Bowen died trying to save the life of another paratrooper. He left behind his parents, older brother Harold, “Harry,” and sister, Gertrude, “Sissy.”
At age 90, Mr. Scherr traveled to the beaches of Normandy and the American cemetery there, to pay his respects at Pvt. Bowen’s grave. In “Walter’s Way,” Mr. Scherr honored Pvt. Bowen by prominently featuring his story.
This spring, through the connections of social media, Mr. Scherr was able to meet Ginger Rica, the daughter of Pvt. Bowen’s sister and niece he never got to meet. The two met at Mr. Scherr’s residence in Naples, FL, and Mr. Scherr was able to see what it meant to Pvt. Bowen’s family to have his memory live on.
“For me, it sort of fulfilled the circle of life for why I’m here,” Mr. Scherr said.
Mr. Scherr struggled with the guilt of not having served in World War II for many years, and finally found his purpose in philanthropy, and specifically, in supporting The Center for Discovery. Mr. Scherr said he wanted to be part of something greater than himself, and supporting The Center helps him honor caretakers like those who took care of him during his years in the sanatorium. All proceeds of Walter’s Way are donated to The Center for Discovery. This summer, Mr. Scherr is working with the 82nd Airborne Division to increase educational support for its troops.