Walter Amandus Durels
July 26, 1932 – October 3, 2020
Walter Amandus Durels of New York City died on October 3, 2020 at the age of 88. He passed away peacefully with his family by his side.
Walter was born July 26, 1932 in Queens, New York at Long Island City Hospital. He was the son of Amandus and Marie (Brancard) Durels.
Walter’s formidable years were spent growing up in Brooklyn playing stickball in the streets and working in the family business, the Durels Delicatessen on Seventh Avenue. Whether behind the counter or making deliveries on his bicycle, Walter loved being a part of his parents’ deli.
Walter ventured south for college, attending Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Oklahoma. He interrupted his college years during the Korean War to enlist in the Army in 1952. Walter felt that serving would be a more valuable experience. He was stationed in Trieste, Italy and used that time to travel extensively throughout Europe, financed by his poker winnings. Walter was honorably discharged in 1954. He spoke fondly of his time in the service and generously supported many Veterans’ organizations throughout his life.
After the Army, Walter returned to Oklahoma State University where he met the woman that he would spend the rest of his life with, Sharon Kay Evilsizer of Lawton, Oklahoma. They had a brief courtship and were married in 1957. Walter graduated college in 1958 and then returned to New York City.
Over the course of his professional life, Walter was a natural salesman working for Coca Cola, Playtex International and Vanity Fair. He eventually opted out of the corporate world and shifted to an entrepreneurial adventure in private label merchandise. That move led Walter into mainland China just as U.S. and China relations were restored in the 1970s.
Walter made numerous trips to China in pursuit of a wide variety of business interests, including in film, garment, beverage, and antiquities. Along the way he had extensive dealings with a colorful cast of characters from the Hollywood and sports worlds including the film director Otto Preminger, actors William Holden and Stephanie Powers, Muhammad Ali, and Howard Hughes’ “fixer” Johnny Myer.
Walter’s last business enterprise in China was the distribution of a gold bullion panda coin in 1980. After the price of gold fell by 70% in the span of weeks, Walter was forced to return to his childhood roots in the deli business. He opened his own food service business, the Lunchbox, in midtown Manhattan. Walter sold that business after 15 years of arriving to the shop every day at 3am, retiring at the age of 76. The dignity of sweat and hard work was religion to Walter, and he was a faithful disciple until the end of his long career.
Walter lived an interesting life. It was not an easy life, but he chose a path of personal responsibility. He lived honestly, was generous, gracious, and kind to everyone. He was a romantic and a champion for the underdog. He was consistently there to help relatives and friends along the road toward success. Walter was blessed with a sweet personality and he was always in good spirit.
Whenever Walter wrote a birthday card or note from Santa, he tugged on the heartstrings and struck an emotional chord to the delight of the recipient. He was masterful in the kitchen with no cookbook needed, making family meals with “a little of this and a little of that.” He was a voracious reader with an uncanny ability to have a conversation with anyone on any topic. Walter had a keen memory, easily recalling details and names as he shared fascinating stories from his life, giving a glimpse into a bygone era for his listener.
If you asked Walter, his greatest accomplishment wasn’t any of his many business ventures – it was his family. He was a caring and loyal husband, father, and grandfather. Walter’s guidance and love helped form the essence of who his children and grandchildren became as adults.
Left to cherish his memory are his survivors: Sharon, his wife of 62 years; two sons Steve (Lisa) Durels of New York City and Tom (Jackie) Durels of Wilton, Connecticut; his daughter Kerry (Brad Cohen) Durels of Sun Valley, Idaho; and eight grandchildren (Kelly, Kelsey, Kristina, Jack, Max, Thomas, Kyle, and Niki). He was preceded in death by his parents (Amandus and Marie), his brother (Harry), and son-in-law (Peter Heiden).
Walter lived in New York City for most of his life, but he relished the peace and serenity of the mountains. He spent time in Dupuyer, Montana on the Triple Divide Ranch (currently known as the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Ranch) from 1966 to 1976. He discovered Sun Valley, Idaho in 1989 and traveled there over the next 30 years to spend time with his children who all own homes in the Wood River Valley.
A private celebration of Walter’s life will take place atop a mountain in Idaho at a future date. People wishing to honor Walter’s memory should take a moment for the underdog and pay forward an act of kindness for someone less fortunate.
Thursday, October 8, 2020
Walter Amandus Durels
October 9, 2020
Uncle Walter always had a smile for anyone who’s eyes met his. He brought love, fun and happiness to all family gatherings. He and his brother, Harry could sit for hours talking in low tones as they observed their families engaged in family reunion activities. Their facial expressions emitted pride and the love they passed down to all of us. Walter was a special person you can never forget. I’m blessed to have known him. Aunt Sharon we love you very much. Jocelyn
October 7, 2020
Lisa, Your father sounds like a wonderful man who led a full life. i'm sending you many hugs and much love. So sorry for your loss. Fondly, Dot