Walter F. Piering, MD
January 2, 1936 - July 3, 2023
Walter Frederick Piering, known professionally as Walt, and affectionately as Fred, unexpectedly passed away early Monday morning beside his loving wife, Bea. He lived a full 87 years, dedicating his time to family, work, and his other passions.
The son of Herman Walter, a German immigrant and Stella May (Luttrell) Piering, a Southerner from the hills of Kentucky, Walt was born on January 2, 1936. His parents met in Milwaukee, WI both in search of work. He was the little brother to Betty, who passed away in April of this year. He was born at home and came from humble beginnings. Sporty and scrappy as a child, Walt enjoyed playing basketball and later taught himself to play tennis; and earned spots on both the basketball and tennis teams at UW-Milwaukee. He later transferred and earned his Bachelor's degree at UW-Madison.
Walt worked his way through medical school in multiple jobs, including: groundskeeper at Whitnall Park, parking cars at the Milwaukee Braves stadium, setting pins at the bowling alley and patrolling the Milwaukee County Zoo at night. He also served as an Airman in the Air National Guard. He had a dogged work ethic and a passion for learning. He attended medical school with the encouragement and support of his best friend's family, Peder Christiansen.
Walt graduated from the University of Wisconsin Medical School in 1962 and served an internship and residency at Milwaukee County Hospital. During and following his fellowship in Nephrology, Walt with his colleagues performed and published the initial studies on the capillary kidney dialyzer which has become the standard for dialysis use in the world today. Working with the Medical College of Wisconsin, Walt developed chronic dialysis programs throughout Southeastern Wisconsin. He considered it a privilege to care for his patients and found great joy and purpose in fulfilling his role of mentoring and training over 95 Nephrology fellows, including his son, Andy ('97 -'99). Walt served for 57 years at the Medical College of Wisconsin. He never truly retired, as he continued to serve as Professor Emeritus.
Walt's faith was foundational as his mother dutifully brought him to church each Sunday and watched him prayerfully from the choir loft, where she was singing. He met his wife, Bea, in that very same Greenfield Avenue Presbyterian Church. He was deeply involved and thoroughly enjoyed his many roles in the Presbyterian church, serving the Lord in the choir, as an elder and on multiple committees. He and Bea were both very active and dedicated to their church home, Forest Park Presbyterian Church.
Walt and Bea loved each other deeply and were constant companions. They were married for 61 years. They worked together in every pursuit, whether it be parenting their four children, serving at church, maintaining their home, or engaging in simple joys, such as gardening, Sunday drives or enjoying a meal at Gillies. Together, they prioritized time in nature and shared this love for flora and fauna with their kids and grandkids. So many memories were cultivated on hikes and picnics, while skipping rocks and discovering waterfalls and wildlife. The peace and presence of God was evident in the beauty of the natural world and time was intentionally carved out to spend time in it. Annual vacations to National Parks and time together in the Smoky Mountains at their family cabin, lovingly named Tennessee Walt's, are core memories for the entire family. As the years passed and the family grew, Walt and Bea cherished their time together with their grandchildren Katy, Peder, Sam, Elsa, Oscar, Kirsten, Jack, Lukas, Max and Charlie on visits, vacations or at every sporting event possible. Walt was intentional about being present in the lives of his grandchildren and took every opportunity to pass on knowledge and life lessons, especially in regards to the values of hard work and education.
A man with hidden talents, Walt played his piano daily, was an instrument rated private pilot with 964 total flight hours, played the banjo while sporting a mustache and collected coins and stamps.
Father first, friend second and hero forever to his four children and their spouses, Andy (Carol), Peder, Karen (Chuck) and Paul (Tia). Walt was a consistently present, hands-on father, who was patient, kind, calm and generous. He delighted in sharing his knowledge and would encourage you to visualize your work on a yellow legal pad. His lessons will forever be carried on in their hearts, minds and hands.
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