Herbert Smedley Walters, 91, formerly of Newtown Square, a retired pharmaceutical salesman who gave generously to Friends' Central School and Villanova University, both alma maters, died Wednesday, Dec. 13, of respiratory failure at his home in Bradenton, Fla.
Known as "Smeds," Mr. Walters was born in Philadelphia, the only child of Katharine Amelia Smedley Walters and Herbert LeVan Walters. His mother was a horsewoman and tournament bridge competitor who played with expert bridge player-writer Charles Goren. She and his father, also an equestrian, were social members of the Aronimink Golf Club.
During the Great Depression, Mr. Walters started an egg delivery business, riding his bike through Ardmore neighborhoods to sell eggs for eight cents a dozen. He was fascinated with gas-powered model airplane engines and wanted to spare his parents from having to underwrite his hobby.
The family moved to a home on several acres in Newtown Square in the late 1930s so that his parents could keep horses and Mr. Walters could fly his model airplanes.
Mr. Walters' education began at Friends' Central as a kindergartner, but due to gas shortages during World War II, he attended public school for three years.
Determined to graduate with the Class of 1944, Mr. Walters returned to Friends' Central for his senior year. After graduation, he enlisted in the Navy as a seaman first class and spent the next two years aboard the Helena, a Baltimore-class heavy cruiser. The ship was deployed on a round-the-world-cruise conducting training exercises and paying goodwill visits.
Mr. Walters' duties included assisting the ship's pharmacist with compounding medications based on chemical formulations. The mentoring he received piqued his interest in pharmacology and led to a career selling pharmaceutical products.
After his military service, Mr. Walters graduated in 1952 from Villanova University with a bachelor of science degree in economics. While a college junior, he married Patricia Dohan, and the couple reared three children in Timonium, Md. They divorced in 1980. That same year he married Demetra Bahadouris.
Mr. Walters was a salesman for Wyeth, Parke-Davis, and the Ross Laboratories division of Abbott Laboratories. He secured his first $1 million contract for Ross when the government established the Special Supplement Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, known as WIC.
After a successful 21-year career, Mr. Walters retired from Abbott Laboratories in 1983 at age 57 to pursue his interests and hobbies. "He attacked his various passions in life with much enthusiasm," wrote his family in a tribute. "You never saw anyone mow the lawn with such gusto."
He enjoyed flying, swimming, waterskiing, collecting Mercury green-head outboard motors, and sailing small day boats and two larger vessels. One was the 46-foot Beneteau First 456 on the Chesapeake Bay from the head rivers into Baltimore Harbor. The other was the 32-foot C&C, which he sailed on the Manatee River and into the Gulf of Mexico through Tampa Bay.
Mr. Walters also loved target shooting, motorcycles, Villanova basketball games, Orioles pre-season baseball in Florida, and doing the jitterbug to the song "The Purple People Eater." He liked to cook and talk about his activities.
"He would easily captivate you with his stories, even if he were just telling you about the new tractor he was buying," his family wrote.
Mr. Walters gave generously to Villanova's School of Business to benefit the scholarship program and was made a member of the Matthew Carr Society. The society recognizes Villanova benefactors who have made lifetime gifts totaling $1 million or more.
In 2015, he and his wife created the $1 million Herbert Smedley Walters '44 and Demetra Walters Scholarship Fund for Friends' Central Upper School students with financial needs. The school's fall 2015 bulletin lauded Mr. Walters for being "attuned to people less privileged than he."
Besides his wife of 37 years, he is survived by son Lee; daughters Deborah and Pamed Walters Le Resche; and nieces and nephews.
A visitation starting at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 20, will be followed by a noon memorial service at the Frank C. Videon Funeral Home, 2001 Sproul Rd, Broomall. Burial is at West Laurel Hills Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd.