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Walt Landers' Autobiography
I was born March 18, 1931 in Athens, Georgia. My parents were Walter Howard and Kathleen McCorkle Landers. We moved to Florida where unfortunately my Dad passed away when I was 13 months old. My mother returned with me to the McCorkle family home in Athens where my grandmother, two aunts and two uncles still resided. My mother enrolled in law school and obtained her law degree in 1934. In 1939 my mother was re-married to another attorney, Robert Wingfield. My mother worked for the Social Security Administration, and Bob was an attorney for the U.S. General Accounting Office. We remained in Athens until 1946. In addition to school, I was active in the Boy Scouts and many of the local YMCA sports programs. My first year at Athens High School included membership in their ROTC unit, which at least taught me the rudiments of marching. In truth I really enjoyed it. To show how long ago that was we were issued WWI Lee Enfield rifles as our armament. Oddly enough I still remember my rifle number, 323547.
In 1946 Bob was transferred to the GAO office in Asheville, NC. My mom obtained a transfer to the SS office there, and I was enrolled in Lee Edwards High School. I played basketball, and was interested in magic, photography, chemistry, spelunking and astronomy as hobbies. I graduated high school in 1949. I hadn't thought much about going to West Point, except that I always had a fascination for the profession of arms growing out of a boyhood following the events of WWII, and the many things that I learned as a Boy Scout, especially survival in the outdoors, orienteering, etc. We as a generation were suffused with military tradition, or at least patriotic ideals. I remember participating in the scrap and paper drives as a Boy Scout in WWII, selling War Stamps at Boy Scout booths in local stores, the applause in movie theaters when the flag would appear on the screen after every show, and on and on. I had forebears who fought in the Revolutionary War and in the Civil War, a father who served in WWI, and an uncle who served in WWII.
Actually my original ambition was to be a doctor. I enrolled in the University of North Carolina in September 1949, majoring in pre-med. On the other hand, previously during the summer of 1949 I had seen an announcement in the local Asheville NC paper that the then NC Senator Frank Graham was giving a statewide competitive examination for appointments to USMA and USNA. I signed up, and on the specified date went to the local federal building where I along with a bunch of other hopefuls took a lengthy civil service exam. I didn't make it. I went to UNC for my freshman year. The following summer I received an invitation to once again take Sen. Graham's exam. I took it, checking the block for an appointment either to USMA or USNA. I made it this time, with a principal appointment to USMA for the class of 1955. I thought it over, and decided to abandon UNC and a possible medical career after two years and go up the Hudson River to USMA, assuming that I could pass the various requirements for admission.
In March 1951 I, along with other candidates, was instructed to report to Ft. Bragg to take the various entrance exams. A couple of future classmates were there too, including Al Parker and I believe Larry Michalove. We were housed in barracks, ate in the mess, and had a grizzled sergeant as a sort of housemother. It was a rather intense few days, and for me was somewhat of an introduction to Army life. I liked it. Some weeks later I received the notice, that I still have, "Fully qualified and entitled to admission." Small missives bring tidings that profoundly affect our passage along the courses upon which we wander in our lives.
On July 2, 1951 my parents and I arrived at West Point as instructed for me to report on 3 July. We spent the night at the Thayer, and the next morning walked around the Plain. I had never been to West Point and was impressed with its awesome presence and beauty. As a hotshot student from UNC with the relaxed lifestyle there I believed that my experience would translate to West Point. I recall saying to my parents, "I'll just go check in, and come back and we can walk around some more and maybe have lunch." I entered the sallyport. All of my classmates know what happened next.
Beast Barracks was a revelation. Fortunately I had two roommates, Phil Enslow and ex cadet John Binder. Both were much more knowledgeable about the experience through which we were living, and they helped to guide me through our shared vicissitudes.
Then came September. Things got better yelling wise as we plebes joined L-2 and were no longer beasts, but academics arrived. I had two years at UNC where I had achieved an advanced standing in mathematics. All of the math that I learned a in two years there was covered in the first six weeks to two months of plebe math, then we went into uncharted territory. Oops. I was able to survive and generally enjoyed the academics, although for the next four years I always was a member of the great unworried but partially achieving middle sections in about every subject.
Those four years at West Point represent the foundation for the remainder of my life. Meeting the physical and mental challenges of the rigors of that Spartan existence, the values that great institution reinforced, and the bond of brotherhood formed with the outstanding young men who were my classmates was an irreplaceable experience.
After graduation, in July 1955 I married the former Edith Unger, and in September I reported to The Infantry School at Ft. Benning GA for the Basic Infantry Officers Course. After BIOC I went through Airborne and Ranger Schools. In the summer of 1956 I was assigned to the 41st Armored Infantry Battalion of the 2nd Armored Division in Mannheim, Germany. There I served as a platoon leader and subsequently as a company commander. In late 1957 the Division was gyroscoped to Ft. Hood TX. The Division was assigned to perform Basic Training of new recruits. I was a Battalion mortar platoon leader, and subsequently aide to BG Bethune, the ADC. In the fall of 1958 I made the decision to resign and embark upon a civilian career.
We relocated to New Jersey where I went to work as a sales engineer for Honeywell. I enrolled in the evening graduate school at Fairleigh Dickinson University and received my MBA in 1962. I was invited by the Dean of the FDU Business School to become an evening adjunct instructor. I taught evening courses in sales, advertising and marketing there for the next 12 years. For my "day job" in 1962 I went to work as Advertising Manager for a pharmaceutical company, Carnrick Laboratories. In 1965 I went to Manhattan, becoming an Account Executive for a medical advertising agency. In 1968 I became Director of Marketing for the Lactona Division of Warner Lambert in Morris Plains, NJ. In 1971 I returned to the medical agency business in Manhattan and continued in that career for the next 30+ years with executive and management positions in agencies such as J. Walter Thompson, Bozell, and Medcom. In 2002 I semi-retired, and formed Photon Communications, Inc., a medical writing service that I operated out of an office in my home in Staten Island. In addition to writing assignments, in 2008 in co-authorship with one of my sons I published a sci-fi novel, "Set Sail for the Stars."
On the personal side, in 1975 my first wife Edith and I separated. In December 1977 I married the former Bonnie Bringman. In 1980, after a few years living in Ft. Lee NJ, Bonnie and I moved to our home in Staten Island. Bonnie was a schoolteacher prior to her retirement in 1998. My first son Richard Michael Landers was born in Heidelberg in 1957 to my first wife while I was with the Second Armored Division in Germany. He graduated from Rowan University in New Jersey in 1979. He went into the packaging machinery business as a sales rep and after years with increasing responsibilities currently is CEO of a firm marketing this machinery to the pharmaceutical and confection industries. In 1982 he married the former Kari Karlson. They have a beautiful home in Mendham, New Jersey and have three children, Michael Jared b. 1984, Jillian Elizabeth b. 1986, and Thomas Charles b. 1991. Mike, Jill and Tom have graduated college and currently are working in jobs related to their respective majors. Mike will marry the former Esther Deming in July 2014, and Jill will marry Tim Cullen in May 2014. In 1982 my son Jonathan Robert Landers was born to my second wife in Women's Hospital in NYC. In 2004 Jon received a BS in computer science from Binghamton University, and in 2006 an MS in computer science from Columbia University. He works as a software engineering manager for a technology company in Manhattan, and lives with his fiancée in Queens. They will marry in August 2014.
My avocations have included martial arts, in which I attained the rank of Tae Kwon Do 2nd Degree Black Belt in 2008, tennis, cooking, and traveling with Bonnie. In 2007 I became the West Point Admissions Field Force Representative for NY Congressional District 11, which covers Staten Island and a small piece of Brooklyn. I enjoy working with the young people seeking entrance to USMA. I also enjoy getting back up to West Point whenever possible, for two MALO conferences in 2008 and 2009, and of course for football games. Beat Navy!
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What Have Your Kids Done?
My first son Richard was born in Heidelberg in 1957 to my first wife and me while I was with the Second Armored Division in Germany, Eventually after a number of years and career paths for me, we lived in New Jersey and he graduated from Rowan University in 1979. He went into the packaging machinery business as a sales rep and after years with increasing responsibilities currently is CEO of his own firm marketing this machinery to the pharmaceutical and confection industries. In 1982 he married the former Kari Karlson. They have a beautiful home in Mendham, New Jersey and have three children, Michael Jared b. 1984, Jillian Elizabeth b. 1986, and Thomas Charles b. 1991. Mike, Jill and Tom have graduated college and currently are working in jobs related to their respective majors. Mike will marry the former Esther Deming in July 2014, and Jill will marry Tim Cullen in May 2014. In 1982 my son Jonathan Robert Landers was born to my second wife in Women's Hospital in NYC. In 2004 Jon received a BS in computer science from Binghamton University, and in 2006 an MS in computer science from Columbia University. He works as a software engineering manager for a technology company in Manhattan, and lives in Queens with his fiancée Lisa, who is completing her law degree with a full scholarship. They will marry in August 2014.
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I work out at the gym regularly, walk a lot, weigh about the same as when I was a cadet (with a condiderable amount of redistribution of bodily tissues) and take all of my medicines and supplements, I don't follow much of any other regimen. With me it has always been, "Waiter, Bartender!" I eat pretty much what I please, although a lot less than cadet days. Remember when they used to tell us that the daily cadet diet was based on 5000 calories? I'm also good for about a half to three quarters of a bottle of wine before and with dinner each evening.
So far, thank goodness, I've only needed a stent in one of my coronary arteries, and a transurethral resection of my prostate to reduce BPH. But who knows from here on in? What the heck, life is fun.
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How I met Bonnie
Dan Dugan's narrative on how he met Bernadette has inspired me to relate how I met Bonnie. This is because Dan mentioned that Bernadette, to his surprise when he met her, had previously worked with me at the New York office of the large advertising agency J. Walter Thompson. This story begins in 1972 when a group of us, account management people like myself and our associated creative and administrative team along with a number of clients whom we brought with us joined JWT. Our previous agency had gone defunct upon the death of the sole owner. A word of explanation of the inner workings of advertising agencies may be in order for those who have never watched "Mad Men." In reality, although this is somewhat of an oversimplification, a large advertising agency is composed at the operating level of an amalgam of smaller agencies, each serving its group of clients. There are certain shared services at the corporate level, but the real action lies within the smaller "cells". When we settled in at JWT a very nice and smart lady, Bernadette, was assigned to work with me as an admistrative assistant in running our group. In the course of time , as often happens within agencies, a power struggle and a rift between certain of the groups developed which Bernadette will recall as the "Barnum War." In 1975 two of the groups split off from JWT and departed with their clients to throw in their fortunes with other agencies. My group was one of those. We departed and went to another agency across town, Medcom, Inc. Bernadette. however, stayed on with JWT. This rather long preamble leads up to how Bonnie and I met. I was in need of an administrative assistant to go with me to Medcom to help manage our accounts. One of the other assistants who was going with us said she knew a very nice lady who was working in the PR Dept at JWT but was looking to move ahead and onward. We arranged a clandestine meeting in a hallway at JWT (this is common during agency "wars") and after a brief interview she agreed to accompany our group over to Medcom. So, in May of 1975 we all left and joined Medcom. During that period things were not going well in my marriage to my first wife, and we separated. Bonnie and I worked together during the remainder of 1975, and lo and behold our relationship gradually progressed from coworkers to friends to falling in love. As an aside, Bonnie had been divorced from her first husband, so we both were "second timers" as Dan referred to it. Our relationship continued at Medcom and personally through 1976 and into 1977. In the fullness of time we were married in 1977. In 1982 Bonnie gave birth to our son, Jon. Life and career moved on. I went to other agencies and ended up as a corporate President. Bonnie stayed home with Jon, and then went back to school to supplement her original business degree to become a schoolteacher. Then after Jon went through college and grad school we retired. Now after 36+ years we're still as enamored as in those halcyon days back when we realized that we were meant for each other.