Cover photo for Walter Dietrich Noelke, PhD's Obituary
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Walter Dietrich Noelke, PhD

April 30, 1940 — February 23, 2024

Walter Dietrich Noelke, PhD

Walter Dietrich Noelke, PhD., 83, passed away Friday, February 23, 2024, in San Angelo.

Graveside Service will be at 2:00 PM Wednesday, February 28, 2024, at Fairmount Cemetery with The Rev. Matthew Rowe, rector, Emmanuel Episcopal Church, officiating. Arrangements are under the direction of Robert Massie Funeral Home.

He was born April 30, 1940 in San Angelo. He grew up in Menard, where he was affectionately known as "Butch." His father was Montgomery Blackwell "Sonny" Noelke, and his mother was Anease Volkmann Noelke. His beloved stepfather was Garnet Tolbert "Tol" Bailey, Jr. In 1949, Walter was struck with polio in the famous epidemic of that year. He lived in an iron lung in the basement of the Shannon Hospital; he was forever grateful for the women of San Angelo who would rush to the hospital when a storm threatened to hand-pump the iron lung in the case of a power failure. He recovered from polio and became a football player at Menard High School, where he graduated. He received his BA degree from the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee. Duke University was his next academic endeavor. He then changed his career goals and studied government at the University of Texas in Austin where he met Virginia McKimmon. They married in 1968 and remained married until his death. Walter and Virginia both taught at Angelo State University, in the government and history departments respectively. Some of Walter's students called him "Dr. Doom" because he was such a tough and demanding professor. Yet most of his former students remember him fondly for his knowledge, wit, and sense of humor. He was always quick with a joke or an interesting story. Walter was also involved in ranching and the oil & gas business, always striving to protect the land from any damage. Walter spent his retirement years working hard to support the things he believed in. His faith in education led him to provide numerous internships, endowments, and scholarships for Menard youth, students at Angelo State University, and the children at West Texas Boys' Ranch and the Concho Valley Home for Girls. He enjoyed working with the San Angelo Area Foundation to steward his charitable resources. His biggest priority was funding the reconstruction of the missing barracks and mess hall at Fort Concho. The new building will house many artifacts of the Fort Concho era as well as an incredible book collection that Walter assembled over the decades, including books featuring Western history and San Angelo in particular. Walter provided significant funding for the Lady in Blue and Jumano Indian sculptures along the Concho River. Most people never knew of Walter's philanthropy and generosity because he valued anonymity during his lifetime. It was always important to Walter to honor family heritage, support the education of future generations, and remember history. Hopefully his many contributions will encourage others to keep our history and legacy alive.

Survivors include his wife, Virginia; his son, Hal Noelke and wife Tracey; his grandchildren, Wade, Anna, and Henry; his step-grandchildren, Luke and Levi Oliver; and his sister, Gretchen. Walter is preceded in death by his brother, M.B. "Monte" Noelke, Jr.

The family asks that any donations be made in Walter's honor to Ft. Concho or the San Angelo Area Foundation.

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Past Services

Graveside Service

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

2:00 - 2:30 pm (Central time)

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