Taylor Wilson Wins Walter Ely Scholarship Award


Walter Ely


SDS, Southeastern Developmental Services presented a $500 scholarship in memory of Walter Ely to Taylor Wilson of Wiley.  This is the first time the scholarship has been awarded, and Kim Engsburg, SDS director said she was sure this would become an annual event.  There was no age limit for entries.  All that was required was that you explain in 1,000 words why you should receive it. 

Taylor Wilson offered a perfect answer in his essay which we reprint in its entirety.  For we Lamar residents who knew Walter Ely only by his journeys along our streets, or from those persons who were fortunate enough to know him better, there probably won’t be a better essay for years to come. 


 Walter met me when I was a newborn baby during my first visit to the First Baptist Church where he was a member.  My parents told me when Walter first saw me he immediately made his way over to meet me.  I have known Walter all my life. 

As I grew up, Walter was always at church and eager to come and see me.  Before long, we became friends and enjoyed the cookies we found in the church kitchen and the pop in the pop machine in the fellowship hall.  He was always fun to be around and loved to joke and tease with me.  In a magical way, Walter and I could understand each other.  Walter’s mother, Hazel Ely, was my Sunday School teacher and was a wonderful, kind and sweet lady.  She told me about Jesus and I knew she was teaching Walter about Jesus too.  That was truly the beginning of a meaningful relationship I had with Walter.  It was fun, but it was serious. 

I remember one Friday night, I was attending a Lamar Savage football game and Walter was sitting on the front row next to me.  It was a fun time and Walter picked me up and sat me on his lap.  I was in the first grade.  My parents were sitting in the stands several rows up and were approached by a “concerned mother” who informed my parents that Walter had me on his lap!  My dad said, “Well, they are friends.”  My mom said, “Walter will take care of him.”  My parents shared this story with me years later and I am amazed that some people missed a life changing friendship.

 Walter attended Sunday School and Church every Sunday.  He always had time to talk to me and acknowledge me.  He would ask me a few questions and we would generally laugh.  When we were downtown, Walter and I would always have to say hi to each other.  But, when we saw Walter walking around downtown, he would never acknowledge us when we honked at him.  After church one day, Walter and I went outside and I took him over to our family car.  I told him this is our car and we will honk and wave at you next time we see you downtown.  That was all it took…next time we saw Walter downtown…we honked and he pointed to us. 

When we would give Walter our saved up cans, he turned into a businessman.  He was excited but very diligent about taking care of the cans. It was definitely his passion and was an expert on cans.  When he spotted a can, you could tell by his walk that he was on a mission. 

As the days passed, Hazel went to live at The Legacy.  We went to visit her in her new home.  And then later, Hazel passed away and went to live with Jesus in heaven.  Walter and I talked about him missing his mother and I reminded him that she was in heaven with Jesus.  Walter would say, “yeah’ in his deep voice and they lay his head on my shoulder.  Because we were friends, I would ask Walter if he loved Jesus and without hesitation again responded in a deep and confident voice, “yeah”.  And he would ask, YOU?  I told him yes, Walter, I love Jesus too. 

How did we become friends?  How did we communicate?  Why was he always nice to me?  Why did he seem happy to see me?  Why was he fun?  How was he so sure about Jesus?  Why was he ornery?  How was he so popular?  How was he so lived? 

I know that I am blessed because I am Walter’s friend.  My little brother, Blake, also calls Walter his friend too.  I find it amazing that Walter’s impact on this community still lives on today… he touched so many people’s lives.  The cans.  The scholarship.  He still continues to touch lives and make us smile. 

I must admit what when Walter died, I found out has age.  Then I began to understand how he could grow with me from being a tiny baby, to a young boy and then into a young man.  Then, I began to understand how he could accept my direct questions about him knowing and loving Jesus.  I saw that he indeed had a deeper wisdom that could truly surpass all understanding. 

As I read the scholarship application, it states…”Why should you be awarded this scholarship?” 

Why?  Because we were simply friends.  Because he touched my life.  He has given to me in a special way all my life.  Why would I deserve a scholarship?  I don’t really deserve the Walter Ely Memorial Scholarship.  I can only say that I want to be the first-ever recipient and it would be an honor.  To be honored by a man that really deserves the honor.  I guess, to receive this scholarship would just be a way to say…Yeah…Walter was my friend.  There is no doubt in my mind that my friendship with Walter Ely has made a lasting impression upon me.  I know the impact he had on my life will make me a better physical therapist. 

Thank you for allowing me to share only a few stories and memories with you about Walter. 


Taylor Wilson 

Taylor Wilson is currently enrolled at Lamar Community College.


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