Sept. 30, 2009
Cullowhee, N.C. - Western Carolina Hall of Fame member and long time benefactor of Catamount Athletics, Dr. Walter J. Durr, passed away at his daughter's home in Florida late Tuesday (Sept. 29) evening. Durr, whose medical career spanned more than half a century, was 97 years old.
The family will hold a memorial service on Thursday, Oct. 22 at 11:00 am at the First United Methodist Church in Sylva, N.C. In lieu of flowers, money can be donated to the Walter J. Durr Endowed Scholarship Fund, which is awarded annually to a deserving Catamount football player.
A native of New Jersey with degrees from New York University and Long Island College of Medicine, Durr served under General George Patton during World War II before moving to the mountains of North Carolina in 1950. He began his involvement with Western Carolina University when he responded to public address pleas for a physician during a 1951 football game. He went on the field that evening to assist and was a fixture on the WCU sidelines as the football team's official physician and sage, as well as unofficial advisor to the coaching staff, until the late-1990's.
"Dr. Durr touched the lives of so many student-athletes here at Western Carolina University during his tenure," said senior associate athletic director Fred Cantler, who came to WCU in 1978 and worked as an athletic trainer under Durr's supervision. "Not a year goes by that a former student-athlete doesn't ask me about Dr. Durr."
Also during his storied career in health care, Durr served as the chief of surgery at C.J. Harris Hospital in Sylva, in addition to operating his own practice.
During his tenure in Western North Carolina, Durr attended to the medical needs of thousands of WCU athletes and faithfully supported the teams through his attendance and financial assistance.
Durr became a major benefactor to the football program in 1986 when he endowed the Dr. Walter J. Durr Football Scholarship Fund. He also was a part of the Cullowhee Legacy program which includes individuals who have indicated WCU as a charitable beneficiary in their estate plans. Members are alumni and friends who have made an ultimate and lasting commitment to WCU.
Durr was inducted into the WCU Athletics Hall of Fame in 1991. He is survived by his daughter, Andrea Border, and his three grandsons, Jay, Andrew and Daniel.