Earle Valenstein, 83, Army colonel, avid sailor, traveler

April 16, 2006|By JOHN-JOHN WILLIAMS IV | JOHN-JOHN WILLIAMS IV,SUN REPORTER

Earle L. Valenstein, a retired Army colonel once held as a prisoner of war, died of congestive heart failure April 8 in his Cambridge home. He was 83.

Mr. Valenstein was born in Baltimore, attended public schools and graduated from Polytechnic Institute in 1941.

Mr. Valenstein joined the Army and the Corps of Engineers Officer Candidate School from the Johns Hopkins University School of Engineering ROTC program and was commissioned in the Army Corps of Engineers.

He went on to fight in World War II and served as a combat engineer officer in Europe.

While in Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge, Mr. Valenstein was wounded by a hand grenade, captured and held in a POW camp. He was released in 1945, after four months of captivity.

"He wouldn't really talk about it until I was an adult," said his son John E. Valenstein of Fredericksburg, Va. He said that he and his father returned to the scene of the battle in 1991.

Mr. Valenstein received numerous honors while he served in the Army, including the Legion of Merit, Purple Heart, Presidential Unit Citation, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Army Commendation Medal with oak leaf cluster, European and Mediterranean Campaign Medal with three Battle Stars and the Army General Staff Identification Badge.

"He thought of himself as a soldier first," his son said.

While on medical leave, Mr. Valenstein met Susan Banghart, his future wife.

The two were introduced by mutual friends, attended a football game together and immediately connected.

"I was as taken to him as he was with me," said Mrs. Valenstein. "From then on Earle and I dated pretty regularly. We were engaged that Christmas."

The two married in 1947.

Mr. Valenstein retired from the Army in 1970 and became deputy director of the Michigan Bureau of Management Sciences.

In 1980, the Valensteins retired in Cambridge.

"The Eastern Shore really captured their hearts," the younger Mr. Valenstein said. He said it was the longest they had stayed in one place.

While in Cambridge, Mr. Valenstein was able to participate in one of his greatest passions: sailing the Chesapeake Bay in his 35-foot Pearson.

"He sailed it very regularly," his son said.

"We had enormous fun going around the bay," recalled Mrs. Valenstein. "Friends would come from wherever, and we would go on the boat."

In addition to sailing, Mr. Valenstein also enjoyed gardening and traveling.

"France was really a big part of their lives," said his son, who said his parents lived in France for eight years during two separate stays. "He spoke French fluently. I can't think of any place they went they really didn't like."

Mr. Valenstein served as president of the Talbot County Chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America, commodore of the Cambridge Yacht Club, and was a member of the Chesapeake Commodores Club, the Maryland Psi Chapter of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity at Johns Hopkins and Fort Benning Lodge 579, F&AM.

"There were so many things about him that were good," Mrs. Valenstein said. "He died in a place where he was living happy."

A funeral service with full military honors will be held at 11 a.m. June 2 at Arlington National Cemetery.

Along with his wife and son, Mr. Valenstein is survived by another son, Martin R. Valenstein of Laguna Beach, Ca.; a brother, Jerry R. Valenstein of Baltimore; and three grandchildren.

john-john.williams@baltsun.com

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