A champion of the rural life

From the tip of his ZZ Top whiskers to the grip of his bone-crushing handshake and the passion he felt for the rural life, Shayne Walters was the real deal. A true and colorful patch in Montgomery County's quilt.

Walters' death Monday at the age of 49 caught many of us -- including many closest to him -- by surprise. A nine-month battle with cancer had given family members hope that this war, like many during his tenure as Charleston's political leader and chairman of the county's board of supervisors, was one he was winning. A recent turn for the worse, however, saw him rushed to the hospital in Cobleskill Sunday afternoon and subsequently taken to the medical center in Cooperstown, where he died Monday morning.

Walters championed the rural life. His understanding of his town's role in our rural county was unmatched. His desire to keep the rural life rural -- and the urban and suburban at arm's length -- comprises much of his legacy.

As will the tireless hours he spent fighting back against Mother Nature's fury last year as she tore a path of destruction through Charleston in the wake of tropical storms Irene and Lee. His full-throated pleas to bring federal money to the county to help get his neighbors back on their feet and into their homes worked to benefit all of Montgomery County as it dug itself out of a disaster of historic proportions.

We will not doubt that there are and have been local community leaders who have shared the amount of passion and compassion Walters seemed to feel about his town and his neighbors, but we'd be hard pressed to find someone who surpassed his level of exuberance.

One would also be hard pressed to find a greater champion of his community; someone who seemingly worked as hard as Walters to keep his little town from being forgotten -- swept away by the floodwaters of bureaucracy or Mother Nature.

The colorful patchwork of Montgomery County's quilt today has a hole in it -- one that will, in no uncertain terms, be easily, or quickly, mended.