Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Walter Camp Jr.Store Executive

Walter Camp Jr., 79, who was president of one of Washington's first health food stores, Vita Food Co., died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound May 1 at his home in Silver Spring.

A native Washingtonian, Mr. Camp was a multi-sport athlete at Roosevelt High School, where he set the 100-yard dash track record before graduating in 1947.

After entering the U.S. Merchant Marine, he sailed on Cities Service oil tankers throughout the Caribbean until he was drafted for the Korean War. His shortwave radio experience as a teenager during World War II led him to an assignment in the Army Signal Corps' GHQ Longlines group.

He attended the University of Miami in Florida, where in his spare time he indulged his love of the outdoors with Everglades adventures in his Klepper kayak, learned to fly in an Aeronca airplane and socialized as a member of the Cavaliers.

He returned to Washington about 1957 and joined his parents in the family health-food business, Vita Food, where he and his brother worked until their retirements and the store's closing in 1989.

Mr. Camp was active in diverse community interests. The son of German immigrants, he was a member of the Washingtonia Schuhplattler Verein, which performs traditional Bavarian Schuhplattler dances, German drinking songs and Alpine bell-ringing. He also broadcast German music on WGTS radio.

He maintained the Hillandale Community Swimming Pool, served as Boy Scoutmaster of Troop 87 and volunteered at the Montgomery County Police Training Academy. He did target shooting at the Berwyn Rod and Gun Club and shot trap at the Prince George's County Trap & Skeet Center.

Mr. Camp was a voracious reader of maritime, biographical and military history, and he possessed an astonishing memory for details. He often regaled others with stories from his reading and his life that seemed fantastic but were in fact true and entertaining, his family said.

A favorite was the tale of playing a game of capture-the-flag on the roof of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in northeast Washington, his family said, which occurred during World War II when only the Crypt Church had been constructed.

Throughout his life, Mr. Camp continued his boyhood interests in stamp collecting and listening to shortwave radio broadcasts from around the world.

In retirement, he cultivated a backyard dedicated to birds, butterflies and squirrels, with attractions and foods for each.

He enjoyed boating and fishing on the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers. As a boy in the 1930s, he once rode his bicycle from Emerson Street in Washington all the way to Pine Whiff on the South River in Edgewater, in Anne Arundel County.

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