It’s good to be home
By Jack Kintner
After a nine month wait, Phil Walrod has finally moved back into his D Street house following repairs caused by an early morning fire last summer. According to investigators the blaze was ignited by neighborhood fireworks that ended up smoldering under Walrod’s back deck for a few hours before bursting into flames and causing over $80,000 in damage.
The retired health care management consultant and his housemate, Canadian truck driver Gordy Schmautz, were awakened and rescued by their neighbor, Blaine police detective Dan Sartain. “I heard pounding on the door about 3 a.m. When I got out I yelled at them that Gordon’s still in the house, so they got him out, too,” Walrod said. Schmautz suffered second degree burns in getting out of the burning house.
Walrod, 84, is home in time to enjoy his remaining days with friends he’s made since moving to Blaine two years ago. He’s been living with bone cancer for some years and recently was told by his doctors that he has little time left, perhaps just weeks, although the clear-headed Walrod’s positive attitude makes this a little hard to believe. His main regret, he said, is not having visited certain countries in his consulting work that took him all over the world. He was well-known for having edited the first text in his field, Hospital Personnel Management, following graduate studies at Northwestern University.
“Never made it to central Africa, Russia, Argentina or Antarctica,” he says in a matter-of-fact way, “but I worked in Cuba before Castro.” His consulting took him to five continents for stints ranging from “a few days to a few weeks, occasionally longer. You name it,” he grinned, adding“Tangiers. Algiers. India, Naples and Durban, South Africa. Heidelberg, Germany, a wonderful place.”
Born Philip Masescu in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, his father Philipus Masesdcu left the family to return to Europe when Walrod was six. He was raised by his mother and had two older sisters, daughters of his mother’s and her first husband, a Presbyterian minister who died in the 1918 flu epidemic. “I later saw my father in Paris, Budapest and Barcelona,” Walrod said, “he was an interesting man, a blend of Romanian, French, Irish, Russian and Turkish ancestries.”
During WW II Walrod served as a cryptographer at Army Air Force General Claire Chennault’s Kunming headquarters in Yunnan province, China. Chennault was hired as a civilian in 1938 to develop a Chinese air force to oppose Japan, and the western pilots he imported formed the core of what was later called the Flying Tigers.
Walrod said that their assignment was flying wartime supplies in from Calcutta, India, to the south “over the hump” past Himalayan peaks “as high as 29,035 feet,” Walrod said, “which is Mount Everest. I saw that more than once from the air,” he said, having made four trips over the hump himself, sometimes flying when the pilots wanted to take a nap. “They’d have a good time in Calcutta, sometimes too good, and wouldn’t be in such good shape to go home, and I had some flying time so I’d sit up there and monitor things, keep us on course.”
“One of our DC-3’s had a wing shot up in Rangoon, and the only way to get it back was to use the wing from a salvaged DC-2, which we found fit quite nicely at the wing root. We called it the ‘DC-2 and a half.’ ” He became a pilot as a civilian after the war, training in a J-3 Piper Cub.
In 1962 he married his wife of 40 years, Dorothy “Dory” Walrod, a native of Hayden, Colorado, who he first met in 1938. They both changed their last names, becoming Phil and Dory Masescu Walrod.
By the time they met again she’d completed nursing school, medical school and two residencies, and they moved to San Francisco where she opened a practice. He ran an international school there, a facility that would enroll foreign students to get them ready for matriculation at an American college or university.
“San Francisco was nice, but my wife missed farm life,” Walrod said, “so I came up to the northwest, to St. Helens, Oregon, and bought her a ranch.” They were there for the next 30 years, and though they had no children of their own Walrod was an active sea scout leader, having built and sailed his own boats for many years. He sailed a Piver-designed ketch rigged trimaran he built himself up to Oregon from San Francisco. A partly completed wooden model hull sits on his coffee table. He said that he and Dory sailed on the schooner Zodiac, now based in Bellingham, for many years.
“We had a front row seat for the St. Helens eruption,” he said, “watching the dust cloud go east from us but seeing all this lumber and houses and what not coming down the Cowlitz River.”
His wife died four years ago, and Walrod came north to Blaine because of friends living in Vancouver. “And I like the climate,” he said. He’s made friends, among them his friend Ellen Bonebrake’s father, Al Reese. “She’s my financial advisor, and can drive me around,” said Walrod who, when his health was better, was a daily fixture at the Blaine senior center, “so who could want more?”
Still an avid reader, Walrod’s working his way through a new biography of Alexander the Great. He’s curious about the sociology of Blaine, what makes it tick, and discusses possibilities with the worldly wisdom and insight gained from living internationally for so many years. He still loves the water, of course, as any sailor always will, “until I climb the ratlines for the last time,” he smiles, happy to be back home.