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Walter Clarence Ihl ’41

A picture of Walter Ihl

Walter Clarence Ihl ’41, December 17, 2011, in Ukiah, California. Born in Portland, the only child of Swedish immigrants, Walter found his way to Reed through an inspirational high school history teacher, Beatrice Stevens, who was familiar with the college, Walter said in an interview in 2001. “Things were very lively in the world during that time. This was the time when Hitler came to power. So we not only studied history or politics, but also kept up with the issues that were going on in Europe and Asia. I always regarded my Reed experience as an opportunity to learn a great deal about the world.” Walter attended classes as a day-dodger for three years and then spent a year working for his father and writing his thesis, "The Popular Referendum on War," with adviser George B. Noble [political science 1922–48], before taking additional coursework in a fifth year. Walter had a beautiful tenor voice. He sang with the Reed chorus and performed in statewide competitions. In the ’40s, he was engaged as a professional soloist at the Episcopal cathedral in Portland, where he met Erma I. Broughton. They married in 1949 and went to live in the Olympic Peninsula in Washington, where Walter was employed as a social worker. After he earned an MSW at the University of Washington, they moved to Ukiah in 1959, where he worked at the state hospital and she took care of their home. When the hospital was closed by then-governor Ronald Reagan, Walter got involved in managing aftercare for those who had been discharged. In 1982, he worked for the Mendocino County conservatorship office doing clinical evaluations of individuals with mental disabilities. At the same time, he was a panel member with the state department of social welfare and evaluated applications for social security disability. “I felt that my Reed experience helped me do my job better, because I had a greater knowledge of people, and a greater knowledge of the world as it is.” Throughout his life, Walter loved music. He performed as a soloist with the Ukiah Masterworks Chorale and the Ukiah Community Chorus. He hosted a classical radio program for a number of years, relying on his extensive record collection, and wrote music and theatre reviews for the Santa Rosa Herald, the Ukiah Daily Journal, and the Mendocino Grapevine. He also was a member of the Cultural Arts Commission in Ukiah and cheered on the San Francisco Giants. Erma shared Walter’s commitment to the community and to their church, First Presbyterian. They both enjoyed opera and traveled to San Francisco to attend performances. She died in 1998 following an extended illness. “I haven’t ever forgotten her. Wonderful girl. Just a wonderful girl.” Survivors include Walter’s nephews David, Eugene, and Jim, and niece Carol. One nephew, Jack, predeceased Walter. We thank David’s wife, Sharon K. Jelinek, for providing many details for this memorial piece.

Appeared in Reed magazine: June 2012

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