Artist, former professor Walter Hood dies

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 9, 2013

SALISBURY — Dr. Walter Hood, an artist who taught at Catawba College for many years, died Tuesday night at his home. He would have celebrated his 85th birthday on Aug. 19.
Hood was known as a quiet and gentle man who loved making puns and art.
Family friend Carol J. Carpenter described Hood as “a sweet, kind, gentle man and gentleman … Very gracious.”
That was echoed by many who worked with him at Catawba, where he was on the faculty from 1971 to 1990. Hoyt McCachren, a retired theater professor and administrator, said, “He had a wry sense of humor. He loved to make puns, and he loved to laugh.”
Hood’s wife, Liz, said the response from friends in the community has been overwhelming. “He was such a gentle man,” she said. “He was an unusual person. The things he did no one else would think of are phenomenal.” Walter Hood broke his hip in 2008 and has had health problems since then. Liz Hood said she wanted to write a book about their ordeal so others can learn from their experiences. The most important thing to remember about him, she said, is “that he loved and served Christ,” and she pointed to his artwork, which he did not sign, but applied a woodcut image reading, “To the glory of God.”
Hood, who was the entire art department at Catawba, had his office on the same hall as retired professor Sandy Silverburg. “Walter was very religious, ultra conservative and ultra conservative in his work.” Hood wrote several opinion pieces in the Salisbury Post against abortion and the teaching of evolution. “He was a fine colleague, very well trained, very well educated,” Silverburg said.
Jesse McCartney was an academic dean during Hood’s time at Catawba. “I remember a funny incident. One time we were at a faculty meeting and there was some sort of controversy, and Walter said, ‘The art department speaks with one voice.’ ”
Liz Hood said he was “very intellectual. … He was a very quiet, sensitive person. … Walter was a gift from God. … He enjoyed doing things for someone without anyone knowing. He was a very humble man.”
McCachren called him a very likeable person who enjoyed talking about art. “He was a very positive person and dedicated to Catawba and his artwork.”
Bethany Sinnott, longtime Shakespeare professor at Catawba, remembers her late husband, Aidan, and Hood sharing puns, a favorite word play for both.
Catawba spokesperson Tonia Black-Gold said, “He had a peacefulness about him, and you could see it in some of his work.”
Publicly, he was perhaps best known for his six-panel mural at Salisbury Mall, showing local history and installed in 1990. But Hood won numerous awards for his artwork and worked in many media from acrylic to oil, egg tempera to casein, frescoes, murals, woodcuts and more. He exhibited locally, around the state, in Atlanta, New York and Rome.
Hood was a native of Catawba County. He studied at Antioch College, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, University of Pennsylvania, University of Hawaii and Northwestern University. Before coming to Catawba he was on the faculty at Converse College.
In 1987, he was invited to Washington, D.C., for a consultation on the fresco in the Capitol rotunda.
In 1998, Hood, along with two other men from Salisbury, Bob Hartley and Dr. Leroy Lamm, were featured in a Post series about the three men being stationed at Sugamo Prison in Japan following World War II. Hood was a guard at the prison where Japanese war criminals were being held, including premier Hideki Tojo, who led the Japanese into war. Tojo was executed at the prison, along with other war criminals. Hood was able to surreptitiously take photos of the prison and the surrounding area. Although he and Hartley did not know each other then, they became friends after the story.
A 2004 article in the Post detailed his work on a series of paintings of the Stations of the Cross. At the time, he was quoted as saying he did not take on the project with money or fame in mind. “I would like people to get the impression of this theme for their lives, of atonement through Christ’s life, death and resurrection.”
Liz Hood wrote in an email she sent to Catawba College and others: “Thank you all for your prayers — we still need them. But Walter doesn’t — he has been set free from that body that was holding him down and from that mind which was no longer functioning properly. As Peter Marshall said, ‘When the clock strikes for me, I shall go, not one minute early and not one minute late. Until then, there is nothing to fear. I know that the promises of God are true, for they have been fulfilled in my life time and time again. Jesus still teaches, and guides, and protects and heals and comforts, and still wins our complete trust and our love.’ And I believe it too!”