PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — On the day CBS3 reporter Walt Hunter retired, anchor Ukee Washington surprised him with a story inspired by a photo on Walt’s desk. Stroll by and you can’t miss it: a framed picture of a smiling old man, flanked by Marines in dress blues.
“What a wonderful, wonderful guy,” Walt said.
It’s not to say Walt doesn’t remember other stories. But of the thousands of people Walt Hunter has met in 36 years at CBS3 Eyewitness News, he never forgot the smiling man in the picture, Ken Cassel.
In 2008, Ken was dying of cancer. His family was arranging his affairs and found a surprise in his military discharge papers: Ken earned a Purple Heart in WWII. He had been deafened in an explosion at the battle of Iwo Jima. But Ken had never received the medal.
“The children called me and they said, ‘He doesn’t have long to live.’ He was on oxygen. ‘Do you think you’re gonna be able to do this?'” Walt said.
So Walt went to visit.
“Walt was really upbeat, and he liked taking on a mission, too, and that’s what it was to me,” said Ken’s stepdaughter, Debbie Poloway. “It was like I was on a mission, and I felt like he was on the mission with me.”
While talking on camera with Ken about the Purple Heart medal, Walt asked, “You wouldn’t mind if we tried to help get you one, would you?”
“Eh,” Ken smiled, “as long as you don’t go to too much trouble.” That night on CBS3, Walt had a message for him: “Mr. Castle, it’s no trouble. In fact, it’s an honor.”
Three weeks later, Ken had his medal.
“We brought it to him,” Walt said, “and I got that picture. He signed it. And it wasn’t, it probably wasn’t three weeks that I got a gentle call that he passed away…
“We got him! We got him his Purple Heart,” Walt said, smiling with tears in his eyes. “I got that picture. I got that picture on my desk. I’ve never, never taken that one down.”
“I didn’t know that but I do now,” Debbie said. “To know it sits on his desk, that means a lot. He just made such a big difference for us, and we are just so incredibly grateful.”