Tribute to Walter Tetley (continued)

Walter TetleyKeith Scott also points out that Tetley did some voices for a few of Walter Lantz's cartoons (the creator of Woody Woodpecker) and for the animation giant, of this era, Tex Avery (Tex Avery had collaborated, over the years, with both Warner Brothers and Hanna-Barbera). So there is at least a modest amount of animation work that he did, long before Rocky and Bullwinkle ever hit the air waves.

1964 brought the cancellation of the Rocky and Bullwinkle series and, in turn, Peabody's Improbable History felt the ax. I assume that he kept working steadily after that. From what June Foray hinted at, in her December 1973 letter to me (June voiced Rocky and Natasha in Rocky & His Friends and in The Bullwinkle Show), he continued to be active for the next seven years.

By 1971 Tetley's star, though not exactly a rising star, began to fade.........and fall.........Now well into his fifties, he was still riding a motorcycle. He had an accident, while riding this vehicle (A curious spectacle, is it not?...........that a fifty-something voice, behind cartoons, would be riding a motorcycle?........but then I guess voice-over artists are no different from the rest of us........). June Foray described his accident as dreadful. When he left the hospital, he started out with a cane. Ultimately, he found that it was necessary to turn to a wheelchair, instead.

He tried to continue working, after that, but he did not do very much, for the balance of his life. Voice-over legend, Daws Butler, told me that, within one year of that accident, he and Walter were recording a show for a Hanna-Barbera animated Christmas special. Butler said that Tetley had commented, during the show, just how very terrible the pain still was in his leg.

Somewhere between 1972-1974, I heard his voice as a newspaper boy (what an appropriate role for him!) in a Keebler's cookie commercial. There was absolutely no doubt that that was Walter. The paper boy's voice was 100% all boy and 100% all Sherman! My guess would be that that was the very last job that he ever took.

In December, 1974, Paul Frees (often dubbed as The Man of a Thousand Voices)answered my question, in his letter, as to the whereabouts of Walter Tetley. By this time, I had been trying to track down Tetley, for over a year. Frees said that, the last that he had heard, Walter had been living in a trailer near the beach. He did not say, however, how long ago that had been. He hastened to add that, he had absolutely no idea where he was, then, for sure.

If what Paul Frees said was accurate, I thought about how very sad this must have been for Walter. I could picture him, in his wheelchair, alone in that trailer, God knows where...........(from what I gathered he never married, so that is why I am assuming that he was alone........or at least without that special female companionship, which can hold a man, in good stead, in the twilight years of his life). I also assumed that, if this was indeed correct, that he had moved into a trailer, he had probably lost his house. I am taking for granted that, after all the years that he worked in Hollywood, that he had bought a house. How heart-breaking, if my educated guess is correct that, he did lose his house.

Nine months later, on September 4, 1975, Walter Tetley died. He was sixty years old. How very tragic that, that 1971 day on that motorcycle may have contributed to his relatively young death...........and that the world lost this very talented individual, that day. How equally tragic that his last days could not have been brighter............

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