Walter Otto Stieglitz, “Mick” to his family, Walt to everyone else, was born at home in Bunker Hill on April 14, 1934.
He attended a one-room schoolhouse where he so excelled that he graduated at the tender age of 16. For the next couple of years, he worked at various jobs including making coffee pots in a factory where he did so well the older guys made him slow down as he was putting them to shame.
Next, he went to Oregon in the summer of 1951 and worked as a fire lookout before starting college at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. There, besides classes, he enrolled in the ROTC, joined the Theta Xi fraternity, and got a job with the wildlife cooperative unit on campus. Walt had always loved to hunt and fish with his dad, several uncles, and friends. The job with the wildlife unit at SIU showed him what his path was to be in life. Everything fit! Almost. First, he needed to fulfill his military obligation and trained to become a jet pilot. He really wanted to be a biologist, so he left the Air Force and signed up with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service in the National Wildlife Refuge System.
In 1954, he married Lynn Montgomery and together they had three children, Jeff, Kim, and Barry.
His first National Wildlife Refuges were at Reelfoot Lake and Lake Isom in Tennessee. The resident manager there was not sure what to do with his first assistant manager and so assigned Walt to paint the flagpole on his first day. From that humble start, Walt went forever upward in his career.
The family then went to Florida to live while Walt traveled to refugees all over Florida, Georgia, and Alabama. A move to Georgia followed to work in the Regional office supervising refuges in North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland, and Virginia. California was next to start a new refuge in San Francisco Bay and add a couple of other smaller refugees nearby. Walt then transferred back east to work in Washington D.C. in a variety of positions including as the Bicentennial Land Heritage Program coordinator.
From there he returned to Georgia as Deputy Regional Director. He was called again to Washington D.C. to fill several positions over the next seven years. Finally, he was called to Anchorage, Alaska where he was the Regional Director of 78 million acres of refugees in Alaska. Walt was responsible for the federal response to the infamous Exxon Valdez oil spill, newly created rights for Native Alaskans, and got to work with bears, moose, caribou, sea otters, and snow.
Through the years, Walt made many friends while working in the Fish & Wildlife Service. There are also special boyhood buddies, tennis, and bridge friends. He wrote before his passing that he hoped people would remember him well.
He was extremely proud of his immediate family as well as the extended family he grew up with. He never really left home. He leaves behind his wife, Lynn; his sons, Jeff and Barry (Wendy); daughter, Kim; sister, Barbara; ten grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. One grandson predeceased him.
Walt died of natural causes on February 12. His visitation will begin at 4 p.m. on Friday, February 26 at Kravanya Funeral Home located at 875 S. Washington, St., Bunker Hill, IL 62014 and end at 7 p.m. Walt’s service and burial will be at 11 a.m. on February 27 starting at the funeral home and ending at the Bunker Hill Cemetery. COVID 19 guidelines will be followed including mandatory masks. The service will be streamed live online and available for 30 days after. An opportunity to participate via Zoom is planned. For more information call 618-585-3266 or www.kravanyafuneral.com.
In lieu of flowers, we suggest a donation to the National Wildlife Refuge Association, 1001 Connecticut Ave., Suite 905, Washington, DC 20036-5575, 202-417-3803, www.refugeassociation.org in his name.