Walter Karl Schumacher was born in Mt Vernon, NY in 1938. From a very early age, the family spent winters in Florida and summers at their home in East Marion, on Long Island Sound. Throughout his life, that remained his favorite place in the world. He loved to take friends there and introduce them to the simple life on the North Fork.
Walt attended schools in Florida and graduated from Miami Beach Senior High School in 1956.
He attended Georgia Tech and returned to Long Island in the summers where he worked at Grumman Aircraft Corporation at Calverton, Long Island. At Grumman, he participated in the design and development of the Lunar Excursion Module under a NASA contract. Walt joined the Naval ROTC Program at Georgia Tech and started down the path to military service. He graduated from Georgia Tech with a BS in Electrical Engineering in 1960. He was a brother in Phi Gamma Delta.
After graduation from Georgia Tech, Walt went to active duty in the United States Navy. The Navy was an enormous influence in his life and he was very proud of his service to the country he loved so dearly. In the course of his life, Walt traveled to over 60 countries but was always quick to point out that none was as wonderful as our own U.S.A. Walt held a top secret clearance and was the Communications Officer aboard his ship, the Vulcan, the flagship of the fleet. As Command Duty Officer, he was often left with full responsibility for the ship when he was only in his mid-twenties. Walt served four years active duty achieving the rank of Lieutenant and then became a Reservist. While stationed at Norfolk, Walt learned to fly and made the decision that aviation was the field he wished to pursue. Flying came naturally to him and he loved it!
After his time in the Navy, Walt returned to further his education at Clemson University where he taught Electrical Engineering while completing his Master’s Degree in E.E. After graduating from Clemson, Walt worked at Lockheed Georgia and lived in Atlanta for several years.
In 1968, at age 29, Walt founded Skytel Aviation, Inc., at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport. Skytel was a Fixed Base Operation that sold aircraft, repaired aircraft and avionics, and trained pilots. For years, that company was the official training facility for Broward Community College. Skytel grew and flourished in the 1970’s and soon became the largest domestic Distributor for the Rockwell Commander line of aircraft. Walt held ratings as a Commercial Pilot, Multi-engine, and Certified Flight Instructor.
Walt decided to embark on a new area in Aviation and learned to fly helicopters. He added Rotocraft to his license. He founded Skytel Helicopters and became a very successful Distributor for Enstrom Helicopters, a company in Michigan owned by Attorney F. Lee Bailey.
For relaxation, Walt loved to fly to the Bahamas with friends and family for the evening or a weekend getaway. He disliked having to land at Ft Lauderdale International to clear Customs and then fly the short hop back to Executive Airport. With the blessing of the City of Ft. Lauderdale, Walt contacted the United States Customs Service and convinced them to place a small staff at FXE, using an office in one of Skytel’s hangars, rent-free for a year. The traffic proved sufficient to justify the establishment of FXE as an official U. S. Customs Port of Entry.
In 1975, Walt married Anne Collins who had worked with him at Skytel Aviation since 1969. Together they created a family with the arrivals of Walter Jr. in 1975, Amy in 1979, and Kenny in 1981. Nothing was ever more important to Walt than his children. He always made time for family. He never missed a single sporting event or school performance for any of the 3 children and loved being part of their activities. In 1989, Walt flew the family to France by way of Labrador, Greenland, Iceland and Scotland. They delivered the plane to the Bordeaux region of France, took a ferry to England, and returned by commercial airlines.
Walt loved boats as well as airplanes and helicopters. He had grown up boating with his parents on the Long Island Sound. He wanted to add Boating to his business ventures. In 1980, Walt was the driving force in bringing Chris Craft Boats back to private ownership. With partners, G. Dale Murray, Richard Genth, and F. Lee Bailey, Murray Chris Craft Industries was born in 1981. Walt was involved at the corporate level as a Director of Murray Chris Craft and also as a Dealer with 2 retail locations in S. Florida (Skytel Marine).
As important as Walt’s professional life was to him, it was nowhere near as important as friends and family. He loved nothing more than to share his love of Aviation and Marine interests with others.
He taught many young pilots and helped them to earn their licenses. Three young men in particular- Fred Guido, Patrick Hosmann and Ricardo Carvalho showed exceptional aptitude and interest in the field of Aviation. Together, Fred, Patrick and Ricardo created Southern Cross Aviation and have built it into a very successful business enterprise with offices at Ft. Lauderdale Executive Airport and also in North Carolina. Walt was very proud of their hard work and admired their success.
Walt was thrilled with the arrival of his grandson, Colin, in 2014. He loved taking Colin for walks to look at the boats in the Lighthouse Point Marina. “Baba” taught Colin about planes, boats, and the blimp. They watched videos on the computer about transportation vehicles and laughed together as they watched Disney videos of Mickey Mouse and friends. Colin was his best buddy for nearly 4 years. Colin was his grandfather’s greatest joy!
Walt was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2015, which subsequently metastasized to the bones and eventually invaded the bone marrow. He lost his brave fight against the disease in December 2017.
Walt is survived by his wife of nearly 43 years, Anne, and by his three children- Walt, Amy (husband Steve), and Kenny (wife Erin), and, of course…Colin.
The family gratefully acknowleges the physicians and nurses at Holy Cross Hospital, the Veterans Administration Healthcare System and the divine power of prayer that kept Walt in our lives despite his illness.