Arts & Culture
Remembering the remarkable Mr. Starcke
Published: November 2, 2011
In 1974 Walter returned to his native Texas and purchased the old Olivia de Havilland/Marcus Goodrich ranch (Guadalupe River Ranch) outside Boerne. He converted it into a successful inn and corporate retreat center and finally sold most of his interest in early 2000. “Retiring” to his leafy cottage home in the River Road neighborhood, Walter could be seen most days walking his beloved stray schnauzer “Hugo” and zipping around town in his tomato-red Saab convertible. Shoulders erect, head high, and his trademark goatee trimmed to a fare-thee-well, Walter was the picture of “Golden Years” vim and vigor.
Others are perhaps more qualified to speak of Walter’s deep and steadfast commitment to the New Thought movement. Author of dozens of books, pamphlets, tapes, articles, a worldwide lecturer and innovative seminar guru, Walter's most impressive achievement was his steadfast dedication to simply “walking the talk.” Whether meditating each morning on the oceanfront balcony of his beloved winter retreat in Puerto Vallarta, dashing off another “Daily Voice” musing to devoted followers, or enthusiastically regaling a small gathering on the nature of God and self — Walter was the real deal. What I learned from Walter many years ago at a “men's consciousness raising” seminar (remember those?) was that we are both spirit and flesh. To deny the spiritual side is as pointless as denying a fondness for chocolate chip cookies. Our job is to experience both while on this earthly plane. The example he always gave was that during his years as a young man in New York he would remove himself from the clamor of city life and go to retreats to “find himself.” Always, after a period of intense naval gazing, he would find that he desperately missed his wild and crazy theatre friends who were probably singing show tunes and sipping Manhattans at that very moment. He realized that life is not about one or the other but rather a “duality” of existence (read his book “The Double Thread”), a balancing act of selves — corporeal and soulful.
A dry autocrat Walter was not. This was a man who loved his martini and red wine. Rich food, sumptuous surroundings, glamorous travel, and the occasional hit from a passing joint were definitely not anathema in Walter’s world. A lifelong bachelor, he ended up marrying his longtime female friend, companion, and devotee, Eron Howell to the surprise of many in his 90th year. Walter did as Walter pleased. One of Walter’s stock replies to the question, “What is the answer to a happy relationship?” was his reasonable if perhaps problematic retort, “Easy, I just like anyone that likes me!”
Walter became one of my dearest friends. Despite our 30-year-plus age difference I found him as interesting, funny, charming, caring, and challenging as anyone I've known. We traveled, debated, fought, wined, dined, and opined till the cows came home. I valued his advice, relished his storytelling, and marveled at his accomplishments. Here was a completely self-actualized, interested/interesting, hip and involved gay/bisexual man walking the earth in his ninth decade showing the rest of us how to keep the faith, own your self, love your self, and respect others as they walk their own paths. We Baby Boomer gays were never blessed with an abundance of guides to show us “the way.” Now, as we slouch toward our own autumnal years I cherish Walter’s gift of “action and words” and his memory for illuminating that inevitable yet hopeful path still ahead. Danke, mein herr! I can hear him chuckling now, “It’s all God, baby. All God!”