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Walt Netzel


Walt Netzel passed away Wednesday, July 18, 2012, in the bed that he had built, in the house he had built, with family present.

Walt was born in 1923 in a little town in northern Wisconsin, where he grew up loving the outdoors, a love that lasted all his life. After finishing high school in Crandon, he entered the University of Wisconsin School of Electrical Engineering. His time there was interrupted by service in the Army Signal Corps for three-and-a-half years. Most of his service was in China and India. After the war ended, he stayed on to work on the atomic testing planned for Bikini Atoll

In September 1946, Walt re-entered the University of Wisconsin where he met Carol, a nursing student.

After graduating in 1947, Walt worked as a geologist-engineer for an oil exploration company. He joined the Bureau of Reclamation in July, 1949, where he spent the rest of his working career as head of communications and instrumentation.

After retiring from the USBR, he began a second career as researcher and writer for gun magazines.

Walt’s love of the outdoors lasted all his of life and he loved this area where he could hunt, fish, canoe, sail, swim, ski and camp out at the smallest excuse. He was active in the Boy Scouts for several years, serving as Scout Master for Elmer City and Coulee Dam. His idea of fun was a 50-mile backpacking trip up one mountain and down the other.

He climbed Mt. St. Helens before it blew its top, reached the top of Mt. Rainier on a Fourth of July in a blinding blizzard and camped out overnight on the way to the summit of Mt. Adams.

During all this activity, in 1950, he married Carol and together they had five children, all born in the old Coulee Dam Hospital. He involved the whole family in his love of the outdoors, going on 50-milers when his youngest son was only seven.

While some of his children were still in college, he earned his Masters Degree in Engineering from WSU.

Walt was a builder; he built, with the help of family and friends, the first privately owned house in Coulee Dam. Later he was head of the building committee for Zion Lutheran Church in Grand Coulee. After he made the house livable he built all of the furniture, some of it still in use.

Hunting was a passion with him and he managed to bag deer, elk, moose, mountain goat, upland birds and waterfowl.

Walt and Carol traveled to some unusual places during his working days and after. One of his trips was 500 miles north of the Arctic Circle, as far as the road ran in the Canadian Northwest Territories. He went to New Zealand to see the geology, chartered a sailboat in the Caribbean, hiked the Grand Canyon, saw a bit of Mexico and watched the polar bears of Hudson Bay. But he kept returning to this area, never found one he liked better.

He led a long, active, productive life and he has left a big hole in the lives of Carol his wife, Frederick, Anne, John, Robert and Charles, his children.

Every time we look at the canyon walls and the trail to Crown Point that begins in our back yard we will remember him climbing it every morning to get in shape for the next trip he had planned. He is not gone, “he is just down the trail ahead of us, leading the way.”

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