Walter M. McCardell III, who worked for years to overcome the effects of schizophrenia and found joy and fulfillment in life, died in an April 21 fire at the Arundel Lodge group home in Severn, where he had lived for more than a decade. The former Govans resident was 61.
“I think in spite of his handicaps, Walter was a very caring person. He was more concerned about other people than himself,” said his father, Walter M. McCardell Jr., a retired Baltimore Sun photographer who lives in Stoneleigh.
“Walt was a very sweet person and I’ll always remember him preaching unconditional love for one another,” said Carol Anne Clemmens, a sister who lives in Sherwood Forest. “We were blessed to have him as part of our family. He was a happy boy who’ll be truly missed.”
Walter Miller McCardell III was born in Baltimore. His mother was Sarah Virginia Wilson McCardell, a homemaker. He spent his early years on Guilford Avenue before moving with his family to a home in Govans in 1969.
“Walter was a very kind person, and I looked up to him,” said his brother Paul Michael McCardell, a Baltimore Sun librarian and researcher who lives in Columbia. “He had a good spirit and would do anything for anybody.”
He was an altar boy at St. Mary’s Govans, a Cub Scout and Boy Scout. He attended Mergenthaler Technical-Vocational High School, and in the late 1970s got a job at Pat Hays Buick on Maryland Avenue painting cars and doing body repair work.
“His fellow co-workers became a close group and they hung out together after work,” said his brother. “He loved to work on cars and he had an old red Mustang that had been given by my Uncle Joe to the family and down through numerous sisters, that he worked on with a friend. He liked working with his hands and taking things apart to see how they worked.”
Another sister, Susan Elizabeth McCardell, of Anneslie, recalled that he also had a “pea-green Chevrolet Vega — and boy did that engine shine. He loved washing and polishing that car.”
He often accompanied his father on photography assignments covering the Orioles, Colts, Bullets and the Preakness, or others that took him throughout Western Maryland or to the Eastern Shore. He attended Orioles spring training with his father.
“My brother loved going on photographic assignments with my father,” Paul McCardell said. “During playoffs and the World Series, he would work the games for no pay with some of his siblings, running film from off the field in buckets to a darkroom that had been set up in Memorial Stadium.”
Mr. McCardell also became an exceptional photographer.
“Walt had a good eye. I remember after Tropical Storm Agnes, he traveled with our father throughout Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York photographing the damage,” said Ms. McCardell, his sister. “Dad let him use his camera and some of Walt’s pictures even made their way into The Sun.”
Mr. McCardell later worked in the dining hall at the U.S. Naval Academy, did construction and managed the coffee bar at Helping Hands, a Northwest Baltimore second-hand store.
When he was in his late 20s, he began experiencing symptoms of schizophrenia.
“He accepted it and fought the battle, but it was a difficult war,” his brother said.
He later moved to Springfield State Hospital in Sykesville where he lived on and off for about 15 years.
Then, upon moving to Arundel Lodge, “Walter settled in and they became a family,” his brother said.
He took part in keeping house, cooking, shopping — and enjoying an occasional McDonald’s hamburger.
Ms. Clemmens said those at the group home “created a daily socialization. They looked at everyone as an individual and sought to find out what their needs were. Everyone just blended in.”
Mr. McCardell enjoyed singing, dancing and coloring. He savored a good cup of coffee with a cigarette and enjoyed sporting events in Annapolis, baseball games and the movies. He also enjoyed boating, the Chesapeake Bay and spending time at a family cottage at Bembe Beach near Annapolis.
An uncle, who lived at Bembe, showed his nephew how to use crab lines and repair crab nets, and how to operate a Boston Whaler, a recreational boat. Mr. McCardell liked water skiing, swimming and loading up his boat with siblings and cousins and setting off for ice cream in Annapolis.
“Walt enjoyed taking us for rides down the Severn River and into the Chesapeake Bay,” Ms. McCardell said. “He was a natural.”
It wasn’t uncommon to find him crabbing from Eastern Bay to the Tilghman Island Narrows. “He could really run that boat, and he often came back with two bushels of crabs,” his father said.
“We often had too many crabs,” said his brother. “We’d go up and down the beach selling them for a dollar a dozen.”
“I always called him ‘the King of the Crab Dippers,’” Ms. McCardell said. “Walt had a great sense of humor and a quick wit. He knew how to come right back.”
“Whenever you dropped him off at home, he’d tell you how much he loved you,” Ms. Clemmens said. “He went with the flow and enjoyed life’s moments.”
“Walt had no enemies,” added Ms. McCardell. “He just had love for everybody.”
A Memorial Mass will be offered at 10 a.m. Friday at St. Mary of the Assumption Roman Catholic Church, 5502 York Road, Govans.
In addition to his father, brother and two sisters, he is survived by five other sisters, Margaret Ellen Clemmens of Stoneleigh, Virginia Laurie Spurrier of Murray Hill, Kathleen Amelia Pletcher of Anneslie, Mary Angela Ceshker of Austin, Texas, and Patricia Agnes Moore of Delta, Pa.; and many nieces and nephews. Another sister, Sarah Wilson “Sally” McCardell Polen, died in 1986.