By Joselyn Watkins
At a charity auction Bob and Amy Wald purchased a week in a cabin in Maggie Valley, North Carolina some years ago. During this time they wandered over to Chimney Rock. After hiking part of the fifty acres on which their house now resides they knew that they wanted to spend the rest of their lives at this location. They moved to Chimney Rock full time in 2003. Their spruce log home now is nestled comfortably on the north wall of Hickory Nut Gorge amidst river, waterfalls and myriads of native plants and trees.
Since the day of relocation, Bob Wald has attempted to fulfill the third phase of his planned life. What he planned was that the first phase would be to work hardest on his education.
The second would be that he would be the best he could be in his field, and the third phase would be to retire and enjoy life.
Bob’s first phase included degrees from Hobart College, the State of New York Upstate Medical Center for his MD, and the University of Miami, Jackson Memorial Hospital for his Internship in Medicine and Psychiatry where he received an Outstanding Intern Award in Psychiatry. He then completed his psychiatric residency at The University of Rochester in Rochester, New York.
Service to the U. S. Navy came next as Chief of Neuropsychiatry at the U. S. Naval Hospital in Key West, Florida. Subsequently, he spent twenty eight years in private practice in adolescent and adult psychiatry in Naples, Florida. In addition he was clinical director of an adult psychiatric treatment program, and medical director of a psychiatric center at Naples Community Hospital. When he wasn’t treating patients, he worked extensively with trial courts in the field of forensic psychiatry. Bob’s list of involvements could take up the next few pages so this is just to give you a glimpse of the busy life that he lived.
Reflecting on his practice in Naples Bob talked about many patients who had not planned for their retirement years. He said that many were depressed without the challenges of years gone by. The goal then was to help them learn coping skills to gain control over their lives in a meaningful manner.
One of the endeavors that Bob spearheaded was the instituting of a sex education program into the Naples School System while he served as president of the Collier County Florida Medical Society. This effort was met with strong and vocal opposition, but was eventually successful after a six year effort.
Another program that Bob takes pride in remembering was the Fillabelly Foundation that he and a good friend founded. This was a fund raising group that they organized with one purpose only; to feed the hungry in southwest Florida. The Fillabelly Folk Festivals it created were a series of concerts under the stars featuring the likes of John Denver, Peter, Paul, and Mary, the Kingston Trio, Smothers Brothers, Kenny Rogers, and others. Each concert attracted thousands of attendees, and thousands of dollars to feed folks in need.
The third phase of Bob’s planned life was a retirement in which to relax and cultivate new interests. He has truly reinvented his life with the involvements he has chosen. For eight years he has served as mayor pro tem of Chimney Rock Village and has spent nine years as a village councilman.
Bob has also become very involved in the land trust movement and has functioned as a board member and president of Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy based in Hendersonville. This land trust was instrumental in procuring the 1568 acres called Worlds Edge for the CLMC before it could be bought up by other interested parties. With World’s Edge then purchased by the state, the subsequent acquisition of Chimney Rock Park by North Carolina became much more likely, and indeed, took place allowing for the creation of Chimney Rock State Park. Bob continues to devote much of his efforts toward land protection, and the protection of beautiful Hickory Nut Gorge.
Of note is the Concise History of Chimney Rock Village that Bob has written in his spare time that will be treasured by residents and historians alike. It is housed in the archives at the Chimney Rock Fire Department.
Most recently Bob was elected to be president of the Chimney Rock Volunteer Fire Department. A quote from him is, “ I wanted to grow up to be a fireman when I was five or six. I had to wait until sixty-six to become one.” Meanwhile, he has helped many people psychologically and continues to protect and preserve the environment for everyone.
Although, the Walds found the Gorge by accident, they have had a most positive impact on the area as residents.
Family Addendum-Bob Wald was born in 1941 in Buffalo, New York. His wife, Amy was born in Fargo, North Dakota and spent many years in Chicago before leaving for college in Florida. They have three children living in various parts of the USA, and four grandchildren. Their live-at home furry kids are all rescued beasts and include dogs Molly-a huge Great Pyrenees and Barkley-a Yorkie mix, found along a Lake Lure roadside. Three cats are also in residence and have trained the Walds and their dogs quite well.