Walter Christopher Lardner (1913-1994)
The Reverend Walter Christopher Lardner was born in Brooklyn, New York on August 8, 1913. From a young age, he learned to speak fluent German and Hebrew from his mother, a Jewish immigrant from Germany. Originally interested in teaching, Lardner majored in elementary education at the New Paltz Normal School in Palta, New York before changing his focus to radio mechanics. He joined the Army Amateur Radio System soon after high school, spending his summers training in emergency radio communications at the Citizens’ Military Training (CMT) Camp at Fort Dix in New Jersey. Prior to the start of World War II, Lardner served in the New York Army National Guard and worked as a radio engineer at WTRY, a public radio station in Troy, New York.
Lardner was inducted into the U.S. Army in January 1943. His fluency in German made him a fitting recruit for advanced courses in German language and culture at the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP) at Georgetown University. Following his arrival in Northwest Europe in June 1944, Lardner served as an interpreter for 3rd Radio Squadron, XIX Tactical Air Command of U.S. Ninth Air Force in the Rhineland and Northern France. His duties included intercepting and translating German Air Force radio traffic, valuable intelligence which crippled several German air missions. For their skilled work in the field, XIX Tactical Air Command received an official commendation from Lt. Gen. George S. Patton, Jr. In his August 1944 letter, Patton praised the operation as “the best example of the combined use of air and ground troops I have ever witnessed.”
Following the end of hostilities, Lardner was transferred to the MFAA Section in Regensburg, Germany, where he worked as the assistant and translator for Monuments Man Capt. Edward J. Mutrux. Together, the pair conducted inspections of several repositories for art in the Niederbayern-Oberpfalz administrative district of Bavaria. One inspection revealed that a large collection of antique weapons belonging to The Princely House of Thurn and Taxis had begun to rust and mildew due to inadequate storage conditions. In October 1945 Mutrux and Lardner travelled to Neuhausen to collect tiles to replace the heavily damaged roof of the Franziskanerkloster St. Salvator (“the Miniritenkirche”), a thirteenth-century Franciscan monastery in Regensburg.
Upon his return to New York in December 1945, Lardner resumed his work in public radio. In the early 1950s he converted to Christianity, completing a bachelor’s degree from Siena College in Albany, New York before entering the General Theological Seminary in New York City as a Candidate for Holy Orders in the Episcopal Church. Following his ordainment in December 1954, Lardner served as vicar of many Episcopal churches in upstate New York, including the Church of the Good Shepherd in Elizabethtown, St. John’s Episcopal Church in Essex, and All Souls Chapel in St. Hubert’s. In 1960 he became rector of Zion Episcopal Church in Hudson Falls, New York, where he remained until his retirement in 1979. In addition, Lardner was dean of the Southern Adirondack Deanery and chaplain of the Hudson Falls Professional Firefighters.
Walter Lardner died in Fort Edward, New York on April 1, 1994.
Photo courtesy of the Lardner Family (private collection).