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Goodbye, Pizzelle Man
July 23, 2014 - Craig Howell
Anyone who has lived in our area for any amount of time has probably at least heard of the Pizzelle Man.
For many years, Walter Ehnes could be found at festivals, street fairs, business events and many other activities from Weirton to Steubenville, Wellsburg to Chester and out into Burgettstown and Eldersville. His claim to fame was his gourmet pizzelles, and his ability to make friends just about anywhere.
Walter died Tuesday at the age of 86, leaving a big hole in the fabric of our area.
A community is made vibrant by its cast of colorful characters. They are the ones who, simply by being there and doing what they do, create special memories and touches that can only be found in that particular town. Much like Mayberry had Floyd Lawson, we had Walter Ehnes, and, I think at least, we were better for it.
I often would run into Walter at business functions or while out covering some community event. Almost always, he would be standing next to a table filled with at least a dozen flavors of pizzelles; everything from the traditional anise to butter pecan to chocolate or cinnamon apple.
There often would be children running between his table and their parents, asking for money to purchase some of those gourmet treats. More often than not, though, he would end up giving the kids each a small bag for free. That was the thing that always stuck with me about Walter, it was never about the money. As much of his own time and resources as I'm certain he put into making those cookies, it was more about finding ways to brighten someone's day or give back to the community. In fact, many times whatever money he would make through those pizzelles, he would donate to local schools or charities.
Walter always greeted you with a smile, whether you were a long-time friend or a complete stranger. And if you were a stranger, it didn't last long. By simply walking up to him, you would start a chain of events that would lead to you feeling as if you had known him your entire life.
Walter and I always made a point of speaking, no matter how busy we might have been. We would start with "hello" and lead into community events, politics, family, his service in the Navy and even some about his youth in Massachusetts. He then would jokingly ask me to make sure I got a picture of him so he could prove to his wife, Mary, he was where he told her, then hand me a bag of pizzelles. In all those years, I don't think he ever gave me the chance to actually buy something from him.
That was Walter Ehnes; looking to brighten the days of everyone he met. Our world will be a little less cheerful without him.
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