Obituary: Walter Covell, 91

Mon, 11/24/2008 - 6:00am
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Walter Covell, who created the crossword puzzles for Block Island Times the last two years, died suddenly on Veterans Day, November 11, 2008.

Covell was born January 6, 1917 in Barrington, son of Louis Everett and Maude Evelyn (Clarke) Covell of Barrington, former husband of the late Harriette Frances (Tabakin) Covell, father of Alex and Christopher Covell; grandfather of Jason and Emilie Covell and great-grandfather of Kyle Covell.

Covell enjoyed a long life passionately engaged in providing entertainment and diversionary pleasure to others. During his college years at Brown University (Class of 1938), following up on his original primary school credit as the minister in “Tom Thumb’s Wedding,” he performed with Brown’s “Sock and Buskin” theater group. He began his professional career as an NBC page in New York City, then worked as an announcer for several radio stations in the Northeast and midwest.

After service with the U.S. Merchant Marines in World War II he returned to Rhode Island where first he narrated a radio series on WEAN in the late afternoons called “New England Notebook.” He then became a creative pioneer in television at WJAR with a regular live program called “Backstage Stories,” as the only actor in a series of short theatrical pieces. Renamed “Solo Drama,” Covell had a period of national exposure with the ABC network in 1952, receiving an award for that year’s most original show. While continuing to appear on camera in such programs as “The Wife and I,” “Riddle Skits,” “Tip Top Circus” and “Walt’s Time” he would serve the balance of his professional career in program management in Providence at both WJAR and WSBE until his retirement in 1978.

He continued to appear thereafter in primary roles with such regional and local theater groups as Barrington Players, Trinity Square, Barker Playhouse, Cabot Street and Matunuck’s Theater by the Sea. He also developed a talent for creating word puzzles, which, besides the Block Island Times, were published in the New York Times and numerous crosswords specialty publications. He also had wide public exposure in the role of Colonel Mustard for Parker Brothers’ video version of the “Clue” board game, in the television series “Spenser for Hire” and others, and in several major motion pictures, most recently in “Edge of Darkness” with Mel Gibson.

Covell was a member of the Barrington Town Council, the Screen Actors Guild, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and past president of the Roger Williams Family Association. All who knew him were inspired by his unquenchable spirit and enthusiasm for life.

While funeral arrangements will be private, all are welcome to attend a memorial service in his honor that will be held January 3, 2009 at 11 a.m. at St. John’s Episcopal Church, 191 County Road, Barrington.