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Cartoonist who left millions to charity moved to Queensbury from Woodstock

Cartoonist who left millions to charity moved to Queensbury from Woodstock

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When Harold "Jerry" Walter was dreaming up ideas for the cartoon "Susie Q. Smith" in the 1940s and ‘50s, he made it a practice to spend at least one day a week with teenagers, learning how they dress and speak, according to a biographical profile that Mel Heimer wrote in 1946 for King Features Syndicate.

So it seems fitting that Walter's artwork will be permanently displayed at local charities that benefit children and families, such as the Glens Falls Area Youth Center, the Family Service Association and Big Brothers of the Southern Adirondacks.

Walter, a cartoonist and painter who died in 2007 at age 91, left his abstract paintings - along with more than $2 million in cash - to eight local charities, my colleague Blake Jones wrote in a recent Post-Star report.

The other charities are Adirondack Vets House, the Wait House, Saratoga County Rural Preservation Co., the Children's Committee of Warren County and the New York National Guard Family Readiness Center.

Perhaps the artwork will be on display long after the money is spent doing good works.

"Susie Q. Smith," the cartoon that first appeared in 1945, was somewhat of a "female Archie type" cartoon about a cute and perky teenage girl dealing with school, family and adolescence, according to the website

According to a 1947 King Features Syndicate sales department handout, the cartoon was popular with teenagers, and Susie had an offer to try out for a spot on Kate Smith's radio program, said Mark Johnson, archivist at King Features Syndicate.

Jerry Walter and his first wife Linda co-created the cartoon, with Jerry coming up with most of the ideas and Linda doing most of the drawing, although they sometimes exchanged duties.

They also collaborated on a series of "Susie Q. Smith" comic books that Dell Comics published from 1951 to 1954, separate from the newspaper cartoons.

The Susie Q was a late 1930s dance move, Johnson said.

Perhaps Walter had some firsthand experience with the dance move.

One of his early jobs before cartooning was as an Arthur Murray dance instructor for 18 months, according to the biographical profile provided by the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum at Ohio State University.

Walter also wrote advertising copy, and he attempted short-story writing.

In addition to "Susie Q. Smith," Jerry and Linda Walter did a second cartoon feature, "Jellybean Jones," in the late 1940s.

In the mid-1960s, they developed a newspaper cartoon panel called "The Lively Ones," oriented to senior citizens.

"If the best humor is that which rises out of character, then our senior citizens are a gold mine - so long as it's not your guest room they're in," Walter was quoted in an April 17, 1965, article in Editor & Publisher magazine.

The cartoon was distributed by Newsday Specials.

After living in Woodstock, Walter later moved to Queensbury with his second wife, Clarice O'Hara, who died in January 2007.

Walter kept mostly to himself. But he sometimes interacted with Robert Hagerty, a teenager who lived next door to the Walters and who mowed Walter's lawn and sometimes drove him to the store.

"He would share these gold investment fliers that he would receive in the mail. He would pass them along and would say, ‘Give them to (your) dad,'" said Hagerty, who is the son of Post-Star features writer Marguerite "Meg" Hagerty.

Robert Hagerty said that Walter apparently made his money from investing and living beneath his means.

"For one thing, he didn't spend any money. He had a Volvo, but then after his wife died, he drove this old Cadillac. And I remember it was in an accident and he never had it fixed."

Hagerty said Walter once offered to give him a set of custom-made golf clubs.

"He was so tall, that I wouldn't have been able to use them. I would have had to cut them down," he said.

Although tall in stature, Walter's shoulders were slumped from a nagging neck injury he received playing football his freshman year at Colgate University, said Hagerty, a law student at University of Richmond.

After the neck injury, he ran track and played lacrosse.

He was president of his junior class, editor of the Colgate Banter, a college humor magazine, and belonged to the Delta Upsilon Fraternity.

One of the members of Walter's pledge class was Thomas Nast III, grandson of the famous 19th century editorial cartoonist Thomas Nast, said Bill Briscoe, the Delta Upsilon Fraternity historian.

"The irony is that while Walter became a cartoonist, Nast (the grandson) apparently went into the plumbing business," Briscoe said.

Late in life, Walter was nice enough but did not come across as lighthearted, said the teenagers's next-door neighbor.

"He was kind of a curmudgeon," Hagerty said.

Staff writer Maury Thompson may be reached at


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