Joseph E. Walters Jr., 83

Posted: October 09, 2008

Joseph E. Walters Jr., 83, of Haverford, owner of a mechanical contracting business who was a former Villanova basketball star, died of a heart attack at home Tuesday, one week after the death of his wife, Ruth Moran Walters, 81.

The couple had been married for 61 years, and are survived by eight of their 10 children.

Mrs. Walters appreciated theater, movies and museums. Mr. Walters was a sports fanatic. While their children were growing up, she was active with the mothers club at Rosemont School of the Holy Child. Mr. Walters coached the school's basketball team. His wife chaired the ladies bridge team at the Philadelphia Country Club, where Mr. Walters played golf.

FOR THE RECORD - CLEARING THE RECORD, PUBLISHED OCTOBER 10, 2008, FOLLOWS: The Funeral Mass for Joseph E. Walters Jr., 83, of Haverford, who died Tuesday, will be said at 11 a.m. today at St. Thomas of Villanova Church on the Villanova University campus. Friends may call after 9 a.m. Burial will be in Calvary Cemetery, West Conshohocken.

They supported each other's endeavors, their son John said. For years she went with him to all the Villanova games, including out-of-state NCAA tournament games. In 1985, though, when Villanova won the NCAA championship game in Kentucky, Mr. Walters was in Jamaica with his wife and children on a long-planned vacation.

"They were the greatest parents. We learned from both of them," their son said, "and they were totally in love."

After suffering a series of strokes, Mrs. Walters could not walk and was almost blind for the last four years of her life. Her husband was always by her side, their son said. In her final months she refused to use a hospital bed, sleeping with her husband instead, he said.

Mr. Walters and his wife grew up in the same neighborhood in North Philadelphia. He graduated from St. Joseph's Preparatory School and captained the basketball team in his senior year.

During World War II, he attended Villanova University in a Navy program to train officers. At Villanova, he played basketball for coach Al Severance; captained the team; and held the Philadelphia-area college score title for 1944 and 1945.

After earning a bachelor's degree, Mr. Walters attended Long Island University Medical School and Hahnemann Medical School. When he became ill with infectious hepatitis, he dropped out of school and joined William H. Walters & Sons, the mechanical contracting company his grandfather established in Philadelphia in 1913.

After his father, Joseph, died in 1953, he and his brother Robert co-owned the business, which installed plumbing, heating, and air conditioning in major buildings in the Philadelphia area, and developed the Holiday Inn at 18th and Market Streets and the adjoining office tower. Robert Walters died in 1988.

Before retiring in 1991, Mr. Walters operated Walters Mechanical Corp. with his son. Their projects included the plumbing, heating and air-conditioning systems for Two Liberty Place and the 30th Street Station renovation.

While running his business, Mr. Walters kept up his involvement with basketball. He was the confidant of Severance, who coached until 1961, and of his successors. They consulted with Mr. Walters about scouting tips and watched game films in his living room, John Walters said.

Mr. Walters chaired the Villanova University Development Council in the 1970s and was vice president of Villanova's board of trustees in the 1980s. In 1996 he was inducted into the Villanova Athletic Hall of Fame.

In addition to his son, he is survived by daughters Ruth Sullivan, Amelia Lawlor, Maria Barrett, Elizabeth Cronin and Margaret; sons Edmond and Theodore; 17 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by sons Joseph III and James.

A Funeral Mass will be said at 10 a.m. tomorrow at St. Thomas of Villanova Church on the Villanova University campus. Friends may call from 9 a.m. Burial will be in Calvary Cemetery in West Conshohocken, where Mrs. Walters was buried Friday.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Augustinian Seminary Guild, Box 340, 214 Ashwood Rd., Villanova, Pa. 19085.

Contact staff writer Sally A. Downey at 215-854-2913 or sdowney@phillynews.com.

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