Walter M. Senkow, 85, a lifelong Clifton Heights resident who served 44 consecutive years on the local school board and who had a school named after him, died Friday at the Fair Acres Geriatric Center in Media from complications of Alzheimer's disease.
"He dedicated his life to kids," said one of his two sons, Clifton Heights Police Chief Walter J. Senkow.
"He was just a wonderful human being," said Wallace Nunn, former Delaware County Council chairman and a former member of the state Board of Education. "He fought for middle-class people. The only question he would ask about anything was, 'Is this the right thing to do?' "
Mr. Senkow also was a skilled trumpeter, and was leader of the Walter M. Senkow Orchestra. He frequently performed at weddings and New Year's Eve-type affairs, his son said. "He bragged that the money he made from his orchestra paid for our home," he added.
Mr. Senkow was born in Philadelphia and grew up in Clifton Heights. After graduating from Clifton Heights High School in 1942, he joined the Marine Corps and served in the Ryukyus, Marianas, Guam and Iwo Jima.
After he returned from the war, he built his house in Clifton Heights, in 1946, and never left.
His son said that right after he entered junior high, Mr. Senkow became involved with what was then the Clifton Heights school board. In 1972, Clifton Heights schools merged with the Upper Darby system.
Mr. Senkow served several terms as board president and vice president, and became immersed in every aspect of school operations.
For 33 years, he represented Upper Darby on the Delaware County Intermediate Unit school board, and he was president for 14 of those years.
Mr. Senkow had a long career at General Electric Co., in the Re-Entry Systems Division at GE plants at 30th Street and 49th Street and in King of Prussia.
He was chairman of the Eastern Delaware County Red Cross, commander of the Clifton Heights Veterans Council, and a member of the Clifton Heights Lions and the American Legion.
But education remained his passion, his son said. Thus, it was an ultimate honor when Walter M. Senkow Elementary School opened in 2005 in Glenolden.
"He was pretty proud of that," his son said. "When that happened . . . that was probably as emotional as I've ever seen him."
Mr. Senkow is survived by another son, John W.; two brothers; five grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren. His wife of 40 years, the former Dorothy Kapral, died in 1990.
A viewing is from 6 to 9 tonight at the Williams-Lombardo Funeral Home, Baltimore and Summit Avenues, Clifton Heights, and from 9 to 10 a.m. tomorrow at SS. Peter and Paul Ukrainian Church, 100 S. Penn St., Clifton Heights. A Funeral Mass will follow. Burial will be in SS. Peter and Paul Cemetery, Marple Township.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be sent to the Walter M. Senkow Upper Darby High School Scholarship Fund, 601 N. Lansdowne Ave., Drexel Hill, Pa. 19026.