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Longboat Key Friday, Aug. 9, 2019 3 months ago

Observer staff remembers Dora Walters

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There is no shortage of stories about the former Longboat reporter.
by: Sten Spinella Staff Writer

Observer colleagues of Dora Walters, be they editors, advertising executives or fellow reporters, thought a lot of the woman. Their remembrances of her 30-plus years at the Longboat Observer illuminate both her journalistic abilities and her expansive personality. 

Laura Ritter, senior multimedia advertising consultant for the Observer 

“She had a way of keeping a conversation going when she wasn't really a great conversationalist; she was a journalist; it wasn't natural for her to keep a conversation going. So when we would be at functions together, she had one pat question, and I could feel it coming if the conversation would lull. She would look at somebody and say, ‘So, if there are three people that you could have dinner with, who would they be?’ It was her favorite question. 'Well, who would you have dinner with Dora?' And I remember one of them was Bill Clinton. She was just dying to have dinner with Bill Clinton.”

Kurt Schultheis, former Longboat Observer town hall reporter

“You can tell a lot from a reporter by his or her desk, and I'll always remember Dora's desk because it was full of mementos, notebook pads piled up on the desk and floor, and stale snacks and coffee cups filled with old coffee scattered in between. The desk was complete chaos and attracted ants, but it was the perfect desk for a longtime journalist who was too busy out in the field getting news tips to care one bit about how her desk looked.”

Matt Walsh, editor and CEO of Observer Media Group 

“Something that embodied Dora and her love for journalism was, whenever there was a hurricane on its way to the Gulf Coast of Florida, especially our region, Dora was on the scene.

"She was ready to go, dressed for action, had her cameras ready to go, and the woman was fearless, she just loved to go after news. And even when she was in her 80s, when there would be hurricanes coming our way, Dora would be out there. We said this all the time, she could outrun all you young people. She’d run circles around you guys.”

Emily Walsh, Observer publisher 

“I can’t remember who it was, but somebody used to always give her their clothes, like their hand-me-downs, to Dora, and Dora was always going over to people's houses and they would cook together. She was just everyone’s friend. 

“The great thing about Dora is that she would do anything. So for April Fools, we had her put on my little brother’s fatigues, and he was probably in middle school at the time, so that shows you how tiny she was. They fit her, I think they were still a big on her. Wearing my brother's fatigues on the beach, and we took a picture of her, and then Marty Fugate photoshopped it to make it look like she was in Iraq. And still to this day, people believe that Dora was in Iraq covering the war.”

A legendary image of Dora Walters in Iraq, and by Iraq we mean Longboat Key.

Marty Fugate, current freelancer and former Observer Arts & Entertainment editor

"Dora Walters had a curmudgeonly side. But she was never in a bad mood, never complained, and always got her copy in on time. She never failed to encourage her fellow reporters. If she thought you’d written a good story, she’d tell you. If not, she wouldn’t, and you’d try a little harder. Dora was, as they used to say, a trooper. In one case, it was not just a figure of speech. In a feature for one of our April Fool’s issues, Dora geared up in a camouflage combat uniform, complete with helmet. It was the early days of the second Iraq war. The gag was that Dora was helping the war effort, and before too long, would be heading overseas to deliver homemade sandwiches to the troops. We went out to north Longboat Key to do the photoshoot. I manned the Canon camera, sweating buckets — and I wasn’t even dressed in a combat uniform! Dora gamely posed in a series of action shots, and never said a discouraging word. The shoot complete, we returned to the Longboat Observer offices. Some shots worked as-is, but I also Photoshopped Dora into a tank. I’m told Dora was a hit with our actual troops when the April Fool's edition came out. So here’s a salute to Dora! I trust she’s enjoying her next assignment in the Big Newsroom in the Sky!"

Robin Hartill, former Observer managing editor

“Something I always thought was sweet about her was she would always find these weird little knickknacks that she would leave on your desk. I had just gotten a cat, and she left this little painting of a cat on my desk.”

Learn about Dora's life story here; find out why Observer CEO Matt Walsh calls Dora the consummate journalist here; read Dora in her own words here

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