John Walter, the former mayor of Flower Hill and cousin of President Donald Trump, died last Friday. He was 83.
“All he did was give,” said his daughter Cynthia Frey. “He gave to people in his family, he gave to the village, and he was very involved with the church.”
Walter was born in Queens on April 17, 1934. He attended Norwich University in Vermont and ended up working a variety of jobs, Frey said.
In 1988, Walter was elected mayor of the Village of Flower Hill, a position he held until 1996. One of the people who came to know Walter through his public service was state Sen. Elaine Phillips, who herself previously served as mayor of Flower Hill.
“John Walter was a true public servant who admirably served the people of Flower Hill with grace, dignity and honor,” Phillips said. “In his lifelong service to the community, John always prioritized the good of the village and the needs of the residents. The Village of Flower Hill lost an upstanding, selfless man. My deepest sympathies go out to John’s family — they will be in my thoughts and prayers.”
When Phillips resigned as mayor to take her position as state senator, Walter gave her a letter from then President-elect Donald Trump.
Walter was closely related to the president. His mother was the sister of Fred Trump, Donald Trump’s father. Over the past several years, Walter researched the history of the Trump family.
In an August 2016 article in The New York Times, Walter said that although Trump often claimed the Trump family was Swedish, their grandfather Freidrich actually emigrated from Germany.
In the period around World War II, Trump’s father, Fred, played down the family’s German origins so as not to upset Jewish friends and customers.
“He had thought, ‘Gee whiz, I’m not going to be able to sell these homes if there are all these Jewish people,’” Walter told The Times.
Frey declined to comment on her family’s relationship with the Trumps.
But Walter’s interest in history, and preserving history, went beyond his family. After leaving office, he served as the village historian. In 2012 he donated a special edition copy of the Declaration of Independence to Flower Hill. It currently hangs in Village Hall.
As much as he valued his time working for Flower Hill, Frey said there was no place more special to him than the Congregational Church of Manhasset.
“He did everything there,” she said. “He put in all sorts of work with electronics to maintain that church and keep it going. He met my mother there at that church, they were in a congregation group, we’ve all been raised there. He had a strong faith, it was something that he embodied.”
In addition to his daughter, Walter is survived by his wife, Joan, and his daughters Nancy and Christine. Visitation will be held on Friday, Jan. 12, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Congregational Church. A celebration of Walter’s life will be held the following day at 11 a.m. in the church’s sanctuary.