Walter Jr. was born in South Bend, Indiana, on August 14, 1949, to Walter Sr. and Donna (Shaffer) Botich. He passed away on September 16, 2023, surrounded by his loving family.
Walt’s fondest childhood memories were made on S. Main Street, on the southside of South Bend. He enjoyed telling the story of playing out back, accidentally cutting himself and then blaming the neighbor’s rose bushes. If you knew Walt Sr., you know that resulted in him chopping down every one of those bushes. Every boy needs a pet and Walt and his older brother, Gene, were no different. They secretly adopted a pet rat and kept it in a box in an old radio cabinet. One morning the boys discovered the rat had gone missing, but later were alerted to his whereabouts by a loud yell from the garage. Walt Sr. was under the car doing some work when the rat “introduced” himself. That was the end of boys’ secret pet. Walt attended Monroe Grade School and Riley High School, where his mother worked in the cafeteria alongside his Aunt Millie (Medich). That was “back in the day when the food was actually good.”
Walt and Kristy (Toth) started dating when they both were at Riley. Even though Kristy attended Purdue they continued their relationship long distance. Walt’s parents along with Uncle Melvin and Aunt Mitzi (Pasalich), would pick up Kristy at Purdue on weekends and take her down to ISU. This was so much better than using the ride board, especially because Mitzi gave really great hugs. There was a brief period that they broke up in college. Walt’s mom, Donna, said she never saw him so sad and depressed. Thankfully for Walt’s children and grandchild, he went up to Purdue and won back Kristy’s affections in what must have been some sort of car race (we don’t know what won her back, but this was the late 60s, so we are speculating).
Walt studied manufacturing design while at ISU and became a member of Sigma Pi Fraternity. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1971. Not long after graduation, on July 3, 1971, Walt married the love of his life, Kristy (Toth). At some point they even learned that their real first meeting was at a baby pageant when they were toddlers, making this truly a love story for the ages.
After graduating, Walt worked at Kelsey Hayes before accepting a job at AM General in 1983. Over the years he worked in a variety of roles in AM General’s Quality Division. One Saturday Walt’s young son, Wally, tagged along with him to the office. Normally Walt would have been supervising his son cutting the grass, making sure the wheel lines were straight, but instead Wally got to observe dad use his “problem-solving skills”. This meant yelling peppered with cleverly strung-together profanities. Problem solved. After years of hard work, problem solving (and maybe more swearing), Walt was promoted to VP of Quality Assurance. After 32 years of dedicated service, Walt retired from AM General in 2015.
Walt was a fervent supporter of his boys. Whether it was being asked by the referee to sit in his car to watch the rest of a high school soccer game or driving all the way down to IHSAA headquarters in Indianapolis to dispute an unfair red card given to his son Joe (it was total BS and was eventually reversed), Walt always had his kids’ back. Even in adulthood, he was always there to offer advice, expertise, support, and encouragement. He was an awesome dad.
Walt’s proudest moment was the birth of his granddaughter, Eloise (Ellie). She was his pride and joy and brought a smile to his face every time she was around. She was also the only other person with whom he shared his ginger snap cookies (a prized possession). The cookies had different shapes on them, and Walt and Ellie would spend time finding all the ones with hearts on them and put them in a bag for her to take with her. They had a special connection.
In retirement, Walt joined the Studebaker Museum’s Board of Directors. He loved cars and found enjoyment in collecting them, so this was a wonderful way for him to continue to foster his passion. It may have been his only option. After adding another garage to his home, Kristy told him there was an “in/out” policy: no new car unless he got rid of an existing one. It was a bummer, but people were confusing the garage and driveway with a car dealership.
He was preceded in death by his father, Walter Sr., mother, Donna, and sister, Patricia (Russel) Hosler. He is survived by his wife, Kristy, brother Gene McGowen, his sons, Walter Botich III and Joseph Botich, daughter-in-law Emily (Agness) Botich, his granddaughter, Eloise Botich, and his granddog, Henry.
Visitation will be from 4pm - 8pm, Monday, September 25, at Zahoran Funeral Home. 1826 Kemble Avenue. The funeral service will begin at 11am (with visitation starting at 10am) Tuesday, September 26, at Zahoran Funeral Home. Burial will follow in Southlawn Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the American Cancer Society or the Studebaker National Museum.
American Cancer Society
P.O. Box 22718, Oklahoma City OK 73123
Studebaker National Museum
201 Chapin Street, South Bend IN 46601