BEDFORD, N.Y. -- Friends and colleagues gathered on Friday to remember Walter Liedtke, a Bedford Hills resident and Metropolitan Museum of Art paintings curator who was among the victims of the Metro-North train crash in Valhalla earlier this month.
At no point in the ceremony, which was held at St. Matthew's Episcopal Church in Bedford, was there an explicit mention of how Liedtke died. Instead, there was a focus on how he lived and how he touched those he knew.
Rather than being called a funeral, the packed gathering was called a "celebration of Walter's life."
First to offer personal remembrances was Frank Triplett, who had known Liedtke since childhood, having spent summertime together on Block Island.
Triplett, who knew Liedtke for 60 years, recalled going fishing with him and how his mom made "excellent flounder dinners." He also recalled their interests in girls, the part-time jobs they took during the summer and their coincidental choices to each attend Rutgers University, which he called a "big surprise" to both of us.
The pair wound up living just doors down from each other in college and even joined the same fraternity.
Triplett, who would later become a French professor in Ohio, called Liedtke "my older brother." He was one of multiple speakers who likened Liedtke to a family member.
The long-time friend also noted Liedtke's talents for writing and speaking.
"He made good things happen."
Haig Janian, another one of Liedtke's long-time friends, praised him for his tenacity, calling him "tenacious in public life, tenacious in private life."
Janian also remembered what at first seemed to be an awkward good bye during a phone conversation of theirs when he told him, "I love you."
"He said, 'that's very nice,'" Janian added, recalling that his friend reciprocated.
The gathering included light-hearted anecdotes, while some speakers had sorrow in their tones.
Tom Campbell, chief executive officer and director of the Met, was saddened when he spoke.
Campbell described his deceased colleague as one of the "leading scholars of Dutch and Flemish paintings." He also went into detail about the bond among the Met's community.
"We strive and we celebrate together," he said.
Some speakers touched upon Liedtke's life in Bedford Hills, where he lived as a part-time farmer and as a friendly neighbor who would help out with his truck when it was fashioned into a snow plow.
Linda Tors, who first met Liedtke as her neighbor 20 years ago, made a comparison to the pastoral subject matter of the art work he was involved with to his bucolic home locally.
"He was living in his favorite paintings," she said.
Neighbor Jack Lange, who knew Liedtke for more than three decades, recalled them purchasing hay together, along with his mucking of stalls and fixing horse fencing. He also remembered a time when Walter came out of a hen house with fresh eggs.
Colleague Keith Christensen noted various attributes of Liedtke's, including being urbane, knowledgeable, a devoted husband and a photographer. He also mentioned that flags at the museum are flying at half mast.
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