Henry (Hank) Walter, a veteran Silurian and a former president of the Inner Circle — the group of reporters who regularly cover City Hall and present an annual revue spoofing local politicians and current events — died on Nov. 17 following a brief illness. He died one day before what would have been his 89th birthday.
Walter’s journalism career encompassed print and broadcast media. He began as a copy boy at The World Telegram & Sun in 1953, became a City Hall reporter and wrote two columns: Taxpayers Troubles and Heard Around City Hall. In 1970, he became press secretary for Robert Morgenthau, then unsuccessfully seeking the Democratic nomination for governor. Walter entered broadcast journalism as director of editorial research for WMCA Radio, then was named director of public affairs for WMCA and the Straus Broadcasting Group. Among other assignments, he wrote and produced most of the editorials, documentaries, public service announcements and special features, winning 19 awards for the station, including the first Silurian Excellence in Journalism Award for radio documentary. He also wrote speeches for Abraham D. Beame (both as New York City comptroller and as mayor) and for Harrison J. Goldin when he was comptroller.
Farnsworth Fowle,a war correspondent for CBS Radio during World War II, and a correspondent for The New York Times in post-war Europe and later in New York, died on Dec. 3, just five days before he would have observed his 100th birthday. He was a longtime Silurian who regularly attended lunches until just a few years ago, when health issues took him from his home in the Riverdale section of the Bronx to Vermont, so he could be near his remaining family. He died in an assisted living facility in White River Junction.
Born on Dec. 8, 1915 to American missionaries in Istanbul, Fowle was educated in the U.S. and London, earning a Rhodes scholarship to Oxford. In September 1939, he was visiting his parents in Turkey when World War II broke out and he began reporting for Time magazine. He made his first news broadcast for CBS in June 1940. He continued working for CBS Radio throughout the war, reporting from Bulgaria, Egypt, Jerusalem, Algiers, Italy, the Balkans and Moscow. He came back to the U.S. in 1946, working for CBS in Chicago, then returned to Palestine and covered the birth of the new state of Israel.
Fowle was hired by The Times in 1949 and reported from Turkey before joining the newspaper’s bureau in Frankfurt. In the 1950s, he was assigned to the metro staff in New York. He was also part of the team covering the integration of Little Rock High School in Arkansas in 1957, and remained with The Times until he retired in 1978.
Ruth Gruber, a legendary photojournalist, author and humanitarian, whose reports on the plight of Jewish refugees during and just after World War II stirred the conscience of the world and helped establish Israel as an independent state, died on Nov. 17, at her home in Manhattan. She had observed her 105th birthday in September.
A longtime Silurian and winner of the 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award, the Brooklyn-born Gruber worked for The New York Herald Tribune, The New York Post and The New York Times, but it was as a pool reporter in 1947, while covering Britain’s seizure of the Exodus — a steamship carrying more than 4,500 refugees bound for what would become Israel —that she influenced history. The British, then governing Palestine, transferred the displaced passengers, including many Holocaust survivors and orphaned children, to prison ships, sent them to Germany and held them in compounds that were stark reminders of Nazi concentration camps. Gruber’s photographs and stories documenting the awful conditions into which the refugees were placed sparked an international outcry and have been credited with helping to smooth the path toward Israeli independence a year later. Her work was also the basis of the novel “Exodus” and the subsequent film adaptation. In 1944, acting on behalf of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Gruber escorted close to 1,000 Jews fleeing 19 Nazi-occupied countries on a dangerous trans-Atlantic voyage to safety in the United States. That became a CBS mini-series in 2001.
During her seven-decade career as a journalist and human rights advocate, Gruber also filed reports on Stalin’s gulags and on life in Nazi Germany. While a graduate student in Germany, she earned a doctorate in German literature at the age of 20, one of the youngest ever to become a Ph.D. Gruber traveled throughout the country in 1932 and witnessed Hitler’s rise to power. When she returned home, she briefly joined The Times as a local reporter, moved to The Herald Tribune in 1935 and was assigned to cover events in Soviet Russia. In later years, she lectured and wrote 19 books about her exploits, the last of which — “Witness: One of the Great Correspondents of the Twentieth Century Tells Her Story” — appeared in 2007.