Wally Jonas

Wally Jonas (left). 

Walter “Wally” Jonas, son of William Wolf Jonas and Mina (Frank), passed away October 5, 2021. Wally was born and raised on Chicago’s South Side.

Wally’s parents met and married in Chicago after immigrating from Germany in the mid 1920’s. His grandparents and aunt soon followed, and moved in with Wally’s family during the depression, prior to the Holocaust. Wally was born on April 25, 1931, and grew up in the tight-knit neighborhood of Hyde Park.

Wally’s escape from being under the “old” people’s feet, was to go to the neighborhood YMCA where he joined the swim team, gymnastics team and basketball team. He also joined the Cub Scouts. During the summers, Wally was sent to the YMCA’s Camp Martin Johnson in Irons, Michigan, where he learned to sail.

After attending Kozminski Elementary School, Wally graduated from Hyde Park High in the class of February 1949. He worked as a soda jerk during high school and lettered in swimming.

Wally joined the United States Air Force in 1952 during the Korean War, and was stationed in France, working in communications. While serving he received the National Defense Service Medal and the Good Conduct Medal. He also received several commendations for his recommendations to superiors. Wally was honorably discharged in January 1956.

Wally returned to Hyde Park and finished his Bachelor of Science degree at George Williams College. He graduated in 1958, and began employment with the YMCA not long after, working at the High Ridge, South Shore and Hyde Park Y branches as the Athletic Director. While at the Y he offered the local American Cancer Society office space in the building in Hyde Park.

Wally met his wife, Laurel Cohn, in 1962 on a blind date set up by his cousin, Ruth Selig, and Laurel’s sister, Amelia, whose children attended Rodfei Zedek Day School. Laurel said it was Wally’s sense of humor that she fell in love with when he taught her to do a hand stand by…. Putting your hands under your feet.

Wally and Laurel were married in 1963. They had three children William (Billy), David and Andrew (Drew). Soon the young family was spending summers at Camp Martin Johnson as Wally ran the Summer Camp and Family Camp. Billy and David would join the YMCA swim team, and all three boys spent time at the Y in after school programs.

In 1976 Wally left the YMCA and pursued an MBA, while starting Walter Jonas & Associates, a consulting company, as well as The Clear Instructions Company, with his business partner, Jim McCampbell. Wally was active in the Kiwanas and joined the Board of the American Cancer Society.

Wally continued to bike and run, and to swim at the University of Chicago’s Field House pool. He found a group of friends in the neighborhood who would gather to play handball at the Field House and then go to Jimmy’s (Woodlawn Tap), the local college bar, or the Cove for a beer. Wally also took up the banjo.

After retiring, Wally enjoyed attending continuing education classes at Northwestern University’s OLLI program. He enjoyed learning how to write murder mysteries as well as develop curriculum and teach courses to fellow students. He also wrote letters to the editor of the local papers, his senators and representatives sharing his thoughts on issues from war, gun control, drugs, and crime. Several of his letters were published in the Tribune.

Wally and Laurel also enjoyed traveling. After Billy and David had both been to Europe in the early 80’s for school, Wally took Laurel to visit his cousins in Europe. There were many visits to their youngest son, Drew, in Taiwan, especially after he married Justine, and their first grandchild Benjamin was born in 2009. Both Wally and Laurel also frequented Asheville, NC where their eldest son Billy had joined a large music community in the early 90’s, formed a band, married Adrian, and a second grandchild, Laila Rose, was born in 2014. Wally and Laurel also made several visits to DC/Baltimore to visit David and his husband Cordell.

Wally went on camping trips with friends and played roadie for Billy on several cross-country music tours.

Wally spent the last year of his life as the care giver to his wife who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in Ocboter of 2020.

Wally leaves behind his wife of 58 years, Laurel (Cohn), and their sons William (Adrian) and David (Cordell). Wally is preceded by his son Drew (Justine). He also leaves behind his grandchildren Benji and Laila; his sister-in-law Amelia; nephews: Mike (Joanne), and Earl; niece Linda (Charles); great nieces: Allison, Katya and Anna, and many cousins and friends around the world.

In Lieu of flowers donations may be made to the Alzheimer’s Association, PO Box 4526, Lutherville, MD 21093 or you can make a donation to http://act.alz.org/goto/dljonas

A celebration of life will be planned in Chicago in the spring/summer of 2022.

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