Grave Sightings: Walter Cronkite
Beloved news anchor Walter Cronkite tearfully reported the news of John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963. A decade later, he took a call delivering the news of Lyndon B. Johnson’s death live on-air. He told the world about Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination in 1968. And when the most trusted man in America himself died on July 17, 2009, at the age of 92, it was reported by news outlets around the globe.
Although Cronkite made a career and a reputation out of breaking and reporting news on a nightly basis for nearly two decades, his own illness was kept under wraps. His family announced that he was suffering from cerebrovascular disease just a few weeks before his death.
The funeral at St. Bartholomew Church in Manhattan was a star-studded affair filled with former coworkers and competitors such as Diane Sawyer, Dan Rather, and Barbara Walters. After a number of poignant speeches by friends, family, and colleagues, the funeral concluded with a raucous rendition of “When the Saints Go Marching In,” which friends said would have pleased Cronkite, an amateur clarinetist.
If you want to pay your respects to Uncle Walter, however, you won’t find him in New York. Despite his longtime residency in Manhattan, Cronkite was buried in Kansas City, Missouri, where he spent some time early in his career as a broadcaster at KCMO radio station, reading news and summarizing football games under the name Walter Wilcox. But it wasn’t cherished memories of the job that brought him back to the Show Me State for all eternity—it was his wife. While Cronkite was working at KCMO, a writer named Betsy Maxwell caught his eye. They got married in 1940. Betsy died from cancer complications in 2005 and was buried in her family plot at Mount Moriah Cemetery in Kansas City, Missouri. Cronkite joined her four years later.
For such a legend, the stone is simple and unassuming, not entirely unlike the man himself. Though he "loved being Walter Cronkite, being around all those celebrities," journalist David Halberstam once said that Cronkite could never seem to believe that he had entered the realm of celebrity himself. Part of Cronkite never left his hometown of St. Joseph, Missouri, Halberstam said—which makes it only fitting that he returned to the area for his final sign-off.
Peruse all the entries in our Grave Sightings series here.