December 1944: “It’s raining and sleeting like crazy, and I’m stuck in my foxhole, and I can’t come up because there are Germans all over the place. And suddenly, these huge tiger tanks start rumbling by. It was just this awful combination of bone-chilling cold and pure dread. There was no question in my mind I was going to die that night. I was just waiting to get ground down and become part of the clay in that hole. I also think of it as a great moment in my life. Because it gave me a tremendous sense of perspective. Everything since then, every moment I’ve lived, everything I’ve experienced, has been
After the war, my father, Stuart Walzer, went to undergraduate school at UCLA and then Harvard Law School. Stuart and my mother, Paula Silverston Walzer, made their home in Los Angeles in 1951. He started practicing law. My parents raised four boys.
He became a nationally known divorce lawyer and trial lawyer. He wrote prolifically and lectured throughout the country on family law issues. He was a member of the Governor’s commission that established no-fault divorce in California. Undoubtedly, his identity was wrapped up in being a Harvard-educated lawyer, the “dean” of divorce lawyers, an intellectual, a literary man, and a master gardener. He retired at age 70 and moved to Carmel.
Not only was he a fine lawyer, but he was also wise. He intuitively knew that he could not be successful in retirement if he was close to the hub of his practice. If he stayed in Los Angeles, he would “slouch” back into the world of law. He often quoted Justice Story, who said, “The law is a jealous mistress . . .” He also knew how to stay married to my mother, who knew that Stuart would not let go of the practice easily.
Stuart's multidimensional nature made it effortless for him to discover new interests in retirement. He embodied the spirit of a Renaissance man, engaging in various pursuits simultaneously. Juggling two or three books at a time, he and my mom conducted classes on James Joyce and Shakespeare. He initiated and presided over the Lawyer Literary Society of the Los Angeles County Bar Association for two decades, hosting meetings in his living room. His expertise as a Master Gardener is reflected in his cherished garden. Enjoying social gatherings, he frequently hosted parties for clients and fellow lawyers at his residence. Even in retirement, he embraced these passions by becoming a garden club member and running a new book club.
There was another reason to make a clean break. Throughout his professional and family life, he wrestled with the demons that lurked in the frozen Ardennes Forest. The bright side of that experience was the perspective that nothing was as bad as war. But there was also the dark side, including killing the enemy and patrolling prison camps. This undercurrent of memory was a driving force and a dark cloud that hung over him through the decades. It was time to come to terms with the memories and try to resolve the issues.