Walter F. Lesnick of Carlotta passed away at home July 19 after a brief illness. He was predeceased by his parents and his beloved wife Claudia who died 14 months earlier. He was 74.

Born in Tacoma, Washington, “Wally” moved with his family to Napa, where he graduated from Napa High School. He enlisted in the US Air Force and served as an aircraft line mechanic. After his honorable discharge, he joined the California Highway Patrol as a motorcycle officer, a job he loved, especially the part involving riding his big Harley. One part he never enjoyed was working accident scenes. He recalled a particularly horrific crash on the Bay Bridge, where he extracted a young girl from the wreckage. She died in his arms. He wept when he recalled that moment many years ago.

During his 12 years with the CHP, he worked out of several different offices including San Francisco, where he met Claudia Barry, a dispatcher and communications manager. And they really did live happily ever after.

After the CHP career, he worked as a truck driver before joining the Tosco oil refinery in Richmond, where he worked in the control room. A master of complex processes making gasoline, he would explain, for hours if called upon, how they worked. He admitted that not many people wanted the full explanation. But he had shorter versions if he encountered a willing listener. He lived through an explosion and fire at the refinery which claimed the lives of several coworkers.

Moving north from the Bay Area to Humboldt County, following the lead of their dear friend Sylvia Teague, and after his wife’s retirement, he commuted to Richmond, spending the workweek on a houseboat moored nearby. When he finally retired from salaried work, he started C & W (Claudia and Walt) Landscaping where he delighted in serving his customers and driving small earthmoving equipment. Claudia kept the books which Walt credited for the success they enjoyed. There was always time for trips up the coast in their RV, enjoying crabbing and the view with many friends. In recent years they drove across country, Wally at the wheel of the RV, visiting loved ones and having adventures.

He and Claudia enjoyed together many years of retirement, but he kept busy with different pursuits including a stint as a volunteer deputy with the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department which valued his law enforcement experience. He was also appreciated for his good nature, willingness to help friends and neighbors, and easy laugh.

Survivors include daughter-in-law Joanne Vital; grandson Zachary Lesnick; granddaughter Alanah Lesnick; great grandson Elias Lesnick; brother-in -law Douglas Barry (Elizabeth Eder) of Washington, DC; nieces Alana Barry and Danielle Barry; and many dear friends.

A celebration of life for both Walt and Claudia will be held at a future date. They are buried together in the Little River Cemetery on a bluff above the Pacific Ocean.


The obituary above was submitted on behalf of Walter Lesnick’s loved ones. The Lost Coast Outpost runs obituaries of Humboldt County residents at no charge. See guidelines here.