I Met My True Love in Grassy Sound: The Story of Jim & Sue Walter

by Dorothy Kulisek

Charles Walter first brought his family to Grassy Sound in the 1940s, the same place his father brought him as a young boy. Charles’ son Jim remembers stories of his grandfather coming by train from North Phila. in the 1890s and the conductor would slow down just enough for the fishermen to jump off.

Charles and Ida Walter rented a cottage for years on the northeast side of the channel, now home of Grassy Sound Marina.

During the summer of 1952, Charles came upon a cottage with a boat house for sale on the southwest side of the Sound for $2200.  

Back in the day, a handshake deal wasn’t uncommon, so he approached the owner saying, “I have no money to put down right now, but I’ll pay you in a week.” 

Charles was able to get back half the rental cost from his landlord to put towards his new cottage, a lovely structure built on pilings and made to withstand the stormy seas, with diamond-shaped asbestos tiles, which were all the rage back then. A row of diamonds at the top were painted a darker shade, giving it even more character, a feature that still remains exactly the same on the house today, 60 years later.

Fast forward to the summer of 1958, when 15 year old Jim Walter would meet his true love at Grassy Sound.His brother saw her first and told Jim “he should check out the pretty blonde” up the way. Upon his brother’s prompting, Jim walked up the dock to meet her.

He remembers it like it was yesterday, meeting Sue Buchanan by the drawbridge where there was a little bulkhead underneath where the kids liked to hang out, and, as fate dictated, “it was love at first sight.”

Contributing to their destiny, Sue’s family rented Jackson’s Apts., which was a few cottages away from the Walter’s home. Jim fondly recalls a long boardwalk winding its way through Grassy Sound, which he and Sue would walk to work on every day for the next couple of summers. The path led from Len Atkins Boat Rentals (now Grassy Sound Marina) to Dad’s Place Boat Rentals & Cafe, where Jim was a bait boy and Sue was a waitress. 

Following the summer, Sue and Jim corresponded through letter writing. To this day, Jim has a special box full of love letters that he cherishes more with each passing day, tangible proof of the love he and Sue shared. 

They were married soon after graduating high school and shared a beautiful life together raising their family, spending summers at their shore house in Stone Harbor and the rest of the year at their home in Medford.  They’ve been together for 62 years, but alas not without life’s heartbreaking trials. 

Around 2003, Sue began showing signs that their life was about to be irrevocably changed with an early onset of Alzheimer’s. With an undying love, Jim continues to care for his wife with the only hope he knows, that one day she’ll be fully restored in heaven, and the love that began under the Grassy Sound bridge one summer day will never die.

Somewhat of a testament to their enduring love, both of the cottages their family’s stayed in back then still stand today, holding the memories of a love story that was just beginning.

Thanks in part to their love letters, albums of treasured photos and digitized films from his father’s Sears 8mm brownie camera (which Jim still has), their blissful days spent by the sea still exist and keep Jim smiling over those cherished memories, allowing him to hold those moments in time in his own hands. The sights and smells found in Grassy Sound, along with its natural beauty, all speak fondly of the sweet stories created only by the sea. Life was recorded on those waters right in front of their cottage, a lifetime of happiness was captured, witnessing both a boat fire and a bridge fire to add a bit of drama to their tale, all a priceless part of life at the shore.

Time, however, passed, then came the day when everything at Grassy Sound changed. It was the late 1980s, and Jim’s father Charles was made an offer for a buyout or a three-year rental lease on the cottage. At that point, he had marked his calendar “the end” but sadly passed away before that devastating date came to pass. The bridge was not finished at the time of his passing which exceeded the 3 year rental agreement, but he never got back to his little heaven on earth.

Life isn’t always fair, but because of God’s faithfulness, we endure. His mercies are new every day, with a love that humbly began long ago by the sea, quietly enduring through it all.

Categories Featured Columns General Stories