Walter Brewer Wildman III, 77, of Cape Girardeau died Thursday, October 20, 2022, at his home.
He was born April 2, 1945, in Memphis, TN to Walter B. and Mary E. Goldsmith Wildman. He and Norma L. Talley were married August 29, 1970, at First Baptist Church in Cape Girardeau.
Walt served in the United States Air Force working on B-52 aircraft navigation systems as part of the Strategic Air Command (SAC) during the Vietnam era, reaching the rank of Sargent E-4 before his honorable discharge in 1969.
He was a 1963 graduate of Clearwater High School in Piedmont, MO and received a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology and Business from Southeast Missouri State University in 1971. He wase in the first class to complete all four years of high school at Clearwater after the school consolidated.
Throughout his many professional, civic, and personal roles, Walt was a champion for the marginalized and underserved. A fierce advocate for broad inclusion and equitable economic development, his professional career included executive roles at the Regional Commerce and Growth Association, Habitat for Humanity, I-66 Transamerica Highway Project, Empower Missouri, Boy Scouts of America, and the Easter Seals Society. The longer arc of Walt’s career reflected his eclectic interests and talents, including professional photography, direct social services, community advocacy, and federal lobbying.
Always a bridge builder, Walt could bring diverse groups together for a common cause. He volunteered on numerous local boards and fundraising campaigns, most recently for the Missouri Veteran’s Home Foundation Board, Senate Bill (SB)-40 Board, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Southeast Missouri Pets Capital Campaign Steering Committee (formerly Humane Society of Southeast Missouri), and President of the Southeast Missouri State University Alumni Association’s Board of Directors.
Though his work in the community was largely behind the scenes, he did receive some public recognition. For example, he was honored as an “Unsung Hero” by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society in 2007 and nominated for a Southeast Missourian “Spirit of America” Award in 2012. During his five-year term as Chapter Advisor for the Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity at Southeast Missouri State University, he was a coach and mentor to over 100 young men. In 2009 he was recognized as one of the most influential personalities in the fraternity’s first two decades and inducted into the chapter’s inaugural Hall of Fame at their 20th anniversary gala.
He was a member of La Croix United Methodist Church, where he volunteered in the Reign Forest (church nursery) for many years. Walt enjoyed serving as an honorary “Papaw” to babies and toddlers in the church nursery, where he was revered for his ability to soothe, calm, and delight the little ones in his care.
Loving survivors include his wife of 52 years, Norma L. Wildman of Cape Girardeau; two daughters Teresa (Eric) Wilke of Cape Girardeau and Jennifer (Cliff) Sodergren of St. Louis; three sisters, Betty Wells of Kennedale, TX; Carolyn Andrews of Sioux Falls, SD and Diana Sparr of Chelsea, MI; sister-in-law, Debra Followell of Cape Girardeau; three granddaughters, Olivia Wilke, Anna Wilke and Elizabeth Sodergren; and numerous nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his parents and brothers-in-law, Whitey Wells and Brad Followell.
A gathering of friends and family will be held from 10:00 a.m. to 12 p.m., Thursday, October 27, 2022, at La Croix United Methodist Church in Cape Girardeau.
Pastor Brett Cheek will conduct the memorial service at 12p.m., Thursday, October 27, 2022, at the church.
Military honors will be rendered at 2:00 p.m., at the Missouri State Veterans Cemetery in Bloomfield.
Memorials may take the form of contributions to the Missouri Veterans Home Foundation (Cape Girardeau) or Southeast Missouri Pets, previously known as the Humane Society of Southeast Missouri.