There is nothing so alarming as when the fragility of life itself shows up on Main Street.
Many of us were sad to learn that a longtime Long Beach resident and frequent visitor to our Main Street suddenly passed away. The news was made sadder still by the fact that I had interviewed him just before his passing for “Sidewalk Talk” regarding Memorial Day. He was fine.
A few days after his comments happily appeared in our column, he unexpectedly lost the life he so obviously enjoyed.
Lyle Walter loved to fly kites. He was excited about his recent retirement. He would have time to fly his kites.
He was 62 when he died.
“His favorite thing in the world was to go flying kites in Seal Beach,” Melissa Knievel-Natanson, co-owner of Up Up & Away Kites.
I interviewed him, briefly, for the May 23 Sidewalk Talk, apparently just days before his passing. The question that week was, “Do you have a veteran friend or family member you will remember on Memorial Day?”
His answer was: “My Dad. He was in the Navy.”
His answer could as easily have been my own, except my father was in the Army.
Walter wore a hat that day, a tribute the B-17 Flying Fortress.
He seemed a nice fellow. I thought we might cross paths again. But, sad to say, we won’t.
The Long Beach resident, a well-known member of the local kite-flying community, died of a massive heart attack, according to Knievel-Natanson.
“He was a very sweet, kind soul,” said Knievel-Natanson.
The kite community is a close one, according to Knievel-Natanson. Lyle Walter was a well-known member of that community. He was mentioned, fleetingly, in a 2014 Sun article about the kite festival of that year. He was going to be among those flying show kites for the event.
Knievel-Natanson said he was part of the annual kite festival from the beginning. She said Lyle Walter adored Monty Weston, who Seal Beach residents will remember as the founder of both the kite shop and the annual kite festival. She passed away in 2007.
Lyle Walter was known for his giant red, white and blue kite, Knievel-Natanson said. She said it was 30 feet long, not counting the tail. With the tail, it could be as much as 100 feet long.
The 2013 program for the 17th Annual Japan America Kite Festival said: “Show Kites on the BIG Field! Honoring Seal Beach and America with his patriotic displays, our beloved local flyer Lyle Walter will be unfurling some new kites from his collection along with the Red, White & Blue that he’s famous for.”
On Memorial Days past, Lyle Walter would fly his giant kite with the U.S. flag and the POW flag flying on its tail, according to Knievel-Natanson.
His family lives out of state, Knievel-Natanson said. She believes his dog Wally will be available for adoption at the Long Beach Animal Care Center on June 7.
It seems odd to me that a man I spoke with so recently is no longer here. We adults all know we are mortal. Some of us learned it when we were kids. But the reminder is always jarring, and disappointing. It would have been nice if Lyle Walter had been able to enjoy many years of flying his kites. But the winds that send kites soaring don’t last forever and neither do we.
Knievel-Natanson said the kite shop will organize a memorial kite fly for Lyle Walter in the early fall.
Lyle Walter will be missed.
Charles M. Kelly is associate editor of the Sun News.