Aging In Place

3/28/2023 | By Billy Jean Louis

During World War II, Walter Reynolds and his fellow soldiers worried about being killed by enemy troops. The 99-year-old veteran recently celebrated his birthday and vows he will make it to 100.

BALTIMORE – At one point, many years ago, Walter Reynolds just couldn’t sleep.

He and members of his troop, who were stationed in the Philippines, lived in fear because Japanese soldiers would frequently try to stab them to death as they slept outside at night. Reynolds, who served in the Army during World War II, said he and his fellow soldiers would trade off sleeping schedules, so that one group was always on guard.

Reynolds, who oversaw transportation and stocking of anything that would keep the soldiers alive, including food and ammunition, said that was one of the most dangerous experiences he had in the military.

On Feb. 24, his 99th birthday, he was recognized for his service at Matthew’s 1600, a restaurant and bar in Catonsville, Maryland. Democratic Baltimore County Councilman Pat Young, who represents District 1, gave Reynolds a plaque.

Nine people attended the celebration, including Reynolds’ niece, Arlene Wilder, of Woodstock, who said she’s happy her uncle was recognized.

“He has survived this long – and they recognized him for his age as well as his service,” she said.

Wilder said her uncle didn’t receive medals or commendations during his service.

“Serving in the World War II – especially when it was still segregated – he has a lot of experiences that few folks that are alive and can still talk about,” Young said. “He deserved [the recognition] honestly because of his service and time in the community and just having the perspectives that we’re losing, in a sense that folks are passing away, and don’t have the same experience to share with us anymore.”

The 99-year-old veteran remembers

World War II Memorial in D.C. Credit: Dmitry Akhmetov

While the military was segregated, Reynolds said, he didn’t experience any additional forms of racism. The white people kept to themselves, he said, as did the Black people.

He added that because he didn’t know what to anticipate, he wasn’t angry or disappointed when he was drafted. He said when he looks back on it, he simply feels lucky to be alive.

But he clearly recalls his time in the Philippines, where the children he saw lacked access to food and clothing and referred to him as “Joe,” slang at the time for an American soldier.

“I lost 30 pounds in less than a month,” he said, because he gave his meals to children.

Even after leaving the Army, he said, he still worried about those children.

Reynolds was born in Spring Hill, South Carolina, and is the youngest of 10. He now lives alone in Catonsville. He said he cooks and gets around by himself.

He was married to his first wife, Willyn, and had three children before being drafted into the military. He and Willyn met at a dance in Youngstown, Ohio.

After Willyn’s death, he married Margarett, Inez, and Eloise, who are all deceased. He has six grandchildren and a son, Tyrone Reynolds, Sr., 75, of Ohio.

Upon leaving the military, he worked several jobs, including plumbing. He moved to Baltimore because he had family in the area. Now, he doesn’t have any big plans: “I don’t [wanna] do nothing. I did that back then.” He mostly spends his days watching the news.

Reynolds said there is no secret to living a long life. He just walks, raises his arms, and stretches his legs.

“You just got the good genes. … I’m gonna make it to 100,” he said.

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Billy Jean Louis