LAKE TWP: Former Beacon Journal photographer Ted Walls was passionate about photography and used his skills in his missionary work even after he retired. He continued taking pictures — both stills and video.
Mr. Walls, 82, of Lake Township, died at his home Tuesday.
He retired from the newspaper in 1992 after 35 years of service.
He was active in missionary work at Open M in Akron and with his church, United Methodist of Uniontown, helping with an orphanage in Russia. He and his wife, Nancy, made seven trips to the Kursk region of Russia, about 320 miles southwest of Moscow.
The orphanage, located outside the village of Belica, was housed with children abandoned by society. The children had a variety of disabilities and medical conditions.
“I saw conditions I couldn’t believe,” Walls once told a Beacon Journal reporter in an article about his 1997 and 1998 visits to the orphanage. “They were kids who had been tossed aside.”
He said children were confined to beds that were falling apart and the air reeked of the stench of human waste. He wondered how you could see something like that for two weeks and then live the rest of the year normally.
The photographer in him went to work and he took pictures of what he saw, then had them published in the Beacon Journal exposing the conditions in the orphanage.
As a result more than $20,000 was donated to the church to help the orphanage.
“It was something Ted felt he needed to do, but all of a sudden money started coming in with just the impact of this one man,” said Pastor James Nolte. “We didn’t ask for the money. Ted took his gift of photography and his big heart to Russia. He knew the secret to our success was not just to build buildings, but to build relationships through our faith.”
Nolte said Mr. Walls was a natural for that. “He would get down on his knees and hold and play with the children and take their pictures. This was a grass-roots effort that worked because of individuals like Ted who gave their time and talent. One of his greatest concerns about getting older was that he physically wasn’t able to go back to Russia anymore.”
About five years ago his health did start to decline when he fell down a flight of basement steps and broke his neck. He also had diabetes.
Mr. Walls knew he wanted to be a photographer when he was 14 years old. While living in his hometown of Wilmington, Del., he once witnessed a fire and a photographer in action. That image never escaped him.
After graduating from high school in 1948, he went into the Navy and learned photography while serving as an ammunition loader on a ship off the coast of North Korea during the Korean War.
After his stint in the Navy, he married a pen pal he had corresponded with while in the service and was hired by the Beacon Journal. A year later, his young wife, Mary Ann Murray, who suffered from juvenile diabetes, died.
A few years later he met and married Nancy. They were married 52 years and have five children.
Mr. Walls always prided himself as someone who was documenting history in his 35 years at the Beacon.
“Within the newspaper, I was photographing events of my time,” he said in a 1999 newspaper article.
Ed Suba, who worked with Mr. Walls in the photography department, said his colleague was very helpful to him when he started at the Beacon.
“I learned so much from him. He taught me about lighting and how to make things look natural using a flash, where to place your lighting — a lot of technical techniques,” Suba said. “Things I never did before in my career. He had the perfect personality for this job. He was the guy who made you feel welcome, with his smile and enthusiasm.”
Staff members recalled the running joke in the newsroom and photo department about trying to find Ted’s truck in the pictures he took.
“Ted took great delight in trying to see how many times he could get his white pickup truck in the background of his pictures. Somewhere his truck would appear in his photos,” said reporter Bob Downing. “They were never dominant in the photos, but it was always a challenge to him that he enjoyed.”
Downing estimated he had gotten away with taking several hundred photos with his white pickup truck in the picture.
Visitation services will be held 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday at the Hecker Funeral Home, 13151 Cleveland Ave. NW in Uniontown. The funeral service is at 11 a.m. Friday at the Uniontown United Methodist Church, 13370 Cleveland Ave. NW.
Marilyn Miller can be reached at 330-996-3098 or firstname.lastname@example.org.