ELKHART — Charles R. Walter, the founder of local musical instrument manufacturer Walter Piano, died on Friday, according to his family.
He was 92.
Walter, who was born in 1927 in Joliet, Illinois, joined Elkhart musical instrument manufacturer C.G. Conn in 1964.
Then, five years later, C.G. Conn decided to discontinue its Janssen Piano Division, which Walter and his wife, Barbara, bought in 1970.
The move led them to pursue the dream of building “an all new console and studio piano of the very finest sound and quality,” according to Walter Piano’s website.
In the mid-1970s, Walter introduced the 43-inch Charles R. Walter Piano to the market, marking the launch of what would become an Elkhart staple.
“He did put his name in history,” Elkhart historian Paul Thomas said.
“It was not a large company, but it was a well-organized and refined company,” Thomas said of Walter Piano, which continues to be family-owned and -operated in Elkhart. “They made beautiful pianos.”
Thomas said Walter Piano began its business at the old Crew-Elkhart Motor Company building at the corner of Beardsley Avenue and Michigan Street.
That building has since been torn down, and Walter Piano is now located at 25416 C.R. 6 on the north side of Elkhart.
“It’s put an impact on Elkhart, mainly because of the name of Walter Piano is known pretty well through the United States,” Thomas said.
He pointed out that Elkhart once had about 15 musical instrument manufacturers, but that Walter Piano seems to have had more staying power than most.
“He was a gentleman in the musical instrument business,” Thomas said.
Full obituary for Charles R. Walter, PAGE A6