When 92-year-old Elizabeth Walters enters a room, you can’t mistake her distinctive charm and you’ll never forget her massages.
The longtime Army Community Service volunteer has dedicated her life to helping and taking care of others, beginning with her family.
In 1966, Walters was one of the first people to volunteer at ACS after its creation at Fort Belvoir and, now, she still volunteers once a week at the office.
Wherever I’ve gone, I’ve done a little helpfulness,” Walters said. It's a quiet satisfaction when you find out people maybe benefit from it and are maybe inspired to do likewise.”
Walters' dedication to the Army actually began long before her volunteer work, when she was born into an Army family.
July 14, 1915, Walters was born in an Army hospital in Fort Leavenworth, Kan. during an electrical storm.
After she was born she was taken to be cleaned up, and before being returned to her mother, she was lying on a gurney in the hospital. As she lay on the hospital bed, lightning struck it and she flew onto the floor.
I've been electrified ever since,” said Walters with a laugh. She was not injured in the accident.
She came to the Fort Belvoir area after her husband, Col. Paul R. Walters, retired from the Army and accepted a position with Avco Corporation in Washington, D.C.
When she first began volunteering at ACS, she worked in the lending closet, where military families could borrow pots, pans and blankets upon arrival at the installation. She also held positions counseling abused military wives and referring them to the hospital, if necessary.
During the years, Walters also served as the ACS supervisor three times and spent time with Exceptional Family Member Program children.
Years ago, volunteers would earn uniforms after reaching milestones with volunteer hours. Walters still owns these uniforms and wears them at ACS during her weekly visits.
In 1997, she received the prestigious Emma Marie Bard Award for her more than 10,000 volunteer hours.
These days, she spends her time as the ACS historian, by collecting any and all newspaper articles related to ACS and inserting them into scrapbooks. Additionally, she clips coupons for the Financial Readiness Program and collects and saves plastic bags and containers for teachers to use in their classrooms.
She's always just been the most amazing of people, it's hard to put it in words,” said Sheila Reese, Walters' niece who works at ACS. I don't know quite how to describe her, she's always been dedicated to looking after the Army and Soldiers; it's innate in her to help people and she just does it.”
Walters has also always been the rock in her family, beginning with meeting her husband, who turns 100 Aug. 8. While attending school at the University of Illinois, Walters was invited to a party at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Ind.
"I saw a skinny officer with a black band walking and I asked my friend who he was,” said Walters, who learned that Paul recently lost his wife while she was giving birth.
The following day, she and her friend went to his house while Paul was at work to visit the baby.
I fell in love with that baby and went after the man,” said Elizabeth jokingly.
The Walters went on to have two more sons and a daughter. Their three sons each graduated from West Point, like their father, and went on to serve in the Army. Robert James Walters died while serving in Vietnam. It is thought that his planes' pilot was shot by a sniper, causing the plane to crash.
It was everyone's willingness to help her and her family in troubled times that causes Walters to continue her work in helping others.
She's always been a volunteer, as long as I can remember,” said Jim Walters, the oldest son. I think she just enjoys it; she's always wanted to help people.”
Before ACS, Elizabeth volunteered for the Red Cross during World War II.
Vicki Mullen, ACS worker for 15 years, holds a special place in her heart for Walters.
Whenever I see her, I just walk up to her and turn around,” Mullen said, who receives regular massages from Walters. She has a way of taking care of people; just seeing her makes you feel better; I hope I can be like her when I get older.”
Fort Belvoir Eagle, November 14, 2007
By Elizabeth M. Lorge, Army News Service