Walter “Wally” Vital Praet, 91, formerly of Wauseon, Ohio, passed away at Fairlawn Haven, Archbold, Ohio, on Monday, March 2, 2015. Wally was born on February 6, 1924, to the late Elias and Bertha Praet.
Wally was born in Detroit, Michigan, while on a family visit from Belgium. He lived in Belgium up to the age of 14. While attending school there, Wally learned English, French, Flemish, Belgian, and German. Learning these languages would later play a critical part in his role as a member of the United States Army during World War II. At 14, Wally parents immigrated to the United States and settled in the Detroit area. It is there where Wally had his first job working at the original Tiger Stadium. His job was to clean the locker rooms. Consequently, he often had the opportunity to mingle with the players. It was there that his passion for the Detroit Tigers was born!
In 1936, the Praet family moved to the Henry County area. Wally was enrolled in the Napoleon City Schools and graduated from Napoleon High School in 1941, serving as president of the class. He and several of his high school friends decided to enlist in the Army following graduation. Wally served in the 87th Infantry Division. Because he was fluent in 5 languages, he was assigned to the message center section, which was in charge of sending and receiving messages between artillery headquarters and infantry headquarters. His section also worked with the underground units of France, Belgium, Luxenburg and Germany since they had also been trained in prisoner interrogation. The 87th Division was under command of General Patton’s 3rd army. Following the war, Wally received an Honorable Discharge on February 2, 1946, with the rank of First Sergeant. Upon his discharge, he received 3 bronze stars for his battles at Ardennes, Rhineland, and Central Europe along with a Good Conduct Medal and a Victory Medal World War II. Wally spoke very little about his Army experience during World War II and it is only recently that his family has been told of the many heroic things he and his unit did for their fellow soldiers.
After the war, Wally moved back to the Napoleon area and entered the business world as the manager of a City Loan Agency. In February of 1951, he married Phyllis Bressler, and the two moved to Wauseon and made their home there. Wally left the City Loan and purchased a Motorists Mutual Insurance Agency where he worked for many years. Several years later, he decided to get his real estate license and begin his own real estate agency/brokerage company. He continued to work part-time during appraisals and selling houses well into his 80s!
In the community of Wauseon, Wally was a member of the VFW Post #7424, the American Legion Post #265, and the Knights of Columbus. He was a very active member of St. Caspar’s Catholic Church and served on the building committee for the new church. Wally was the last living charter member of the Wauseon Lions Club. He and his close friend, Dick Hasselschwert, were the founding members of the Wauseon Lions Club in 1951.
In addition to his work and community involvement, Walter enjoyed traveling to Florida with relatives Wilbur and Lilian Clark; spending time at Little Long Lake, taking bus tours with Phyllis to various casinos, and riding snow mobiles with his good friends, Joe Rychener and Butch Frey. Wally was also an avid bowler and golfer. One of the last trips Wally took was on the Honor Flight to the nation’s capital. He traveled with other veterans to visit the World War II memorial. It was a very special trip to him.
Wally is survived by his wife of 64 years, Phyllis Bressler Praet; his two children, Becky (Larry) Christy and Tracy (Greg) Stotzer-Kuhlman; six grandchildren, Ryan Christy of Bowling Green; Tracy (Ron) Garber of Liberty Center; Trishia (Ryan) Bergquist of Angola, Indiana and Todd (Jamie) Bischoff of Angola, Indiana; Betsy (Mike) Johnson of Nashville, Tennessee; and Lauren Stotzer of Archbold; 13 great grandchildren; and a special friend, Amya, his calico cat. In addition to his parents, Wally was preceded in death by a daughter, Trudy Bischoff, a teacher and school counselor, who died on February 11, 2009.
Visitation will be from 2:00 PM to 7:00 PM on Thursday, March 5, at St. Caspar’s Church, Wauseon. A funeral mass will be conducted at 10:30 AM, Friday, March 6, at St. Caspar’s Catholic Church. The family has requested that memorials be made to St. Caspar’s Church or to the Wauseon Lion’s Club. Online condolences may be shared at www.grisierfh.com. The Edgar-Grisier Funeral Home in Wauseon has be entrusted with arrangements.