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Legendary Barbershop Arranger, Coach, and Mentor Walter Latzko Passes Away

February 9, 1924 – September 10, 2010
Blooming Grove, NY

Walter O. Latzko, loving husband and father, entered into rest at the Orange Regional Medical Center Arden Hill Campus on September 10, 2010 after a short illness.  He had been a resident at Tomahawk Lake in Blooming Grove, NY since 1953.

He retired as librarian for the Harness Racing Museum in 1991 after having suffered a stroke, but continued to do some freelance research work for them.

He was born in Carlsbad, Czechoslovakia on February 9, 1924 to Felix and Grete Kraus and was legally adopted by Ernest Latzko upon Ernst’s  marriage to Walter’s mother, Grete.  He became a United States citizen in 1943 having served in the United States Army from which he was honorably discharged.

He is survived by his wife of 56 years, Marjorie; his son, Jeffrey of Streamwood, IL and his wife, Josephine, their sons, Jeffrey and Kevin , and daughters, Jinene Basak of Streamwood, IL and her husband, Kris, and their son, Colton; Dina Crocilla of Streamwood, IL and her husband, Joseph and their daughter, Taylyr; his son, Curtis and his wife, Barbara, and daughters, Jennifer and daughter, Ava, Sarah and Emily; and his daughter, Melanie Bradley of Lewes, DE  and her husband, Jason, and their two sons, Aaron and Ryan.  Other survivors include his stepbrother, Kurt Latzko of Spring Village, VA,  his stepsister, Eve Charing of England, and his brother-in-law, Jaroslav Endrst.  Walter was predeceased by his sister, Elsa Endrst.

Walter was a joke-writer and musician having written for Arthur Godfrey’s radio and TV shows, Jack Sterling’s CBS morning radio show, Garry Moore, and Durward Kirby.  He was the arranger and coach for the Chordettes who were regular performers on the Godfrey shows.  He married one of the Chordettes, Marjorie, in 1953 who sang on the famous recording “Mr. Sandman.”

After serving in the US Army, he went to Amherst College where he graduated Summa Cum Laude in 1948 with a Bachelor’s degree in Music.  He attended Columbia College to study for a master’s degree in music composition and earned all his credits, but did not get his degree because he took the job with Arthur Godfrey.

Walter was a member of the Barbershop Harmony Society, and a lifetime member of the Alexandria Harmonizers Chapter, and is internationally known for his arrangements for barbershop quartets and choruses.  He was inducted into the Barbershop Harmony Hall of Fame, the Mid-Atlantic District Hall of Honor, and named Man of Merit by the Association of International Senior Quartet Champions.  He arranged eight albums for the Buffalo Bills of “Music Man” fame.  Even after he had a stroke in 1991, he continued to arrange music on the computer which was purchased for him by more than twenty barbershop groups. Altogether he left a legacy of 1,226 arrangements of which 94 were medleys, many of which were performed and recorded by champion quartets and choruses.

Walter was an organist and choir director for 42 years and served Methodist churches in Dobbs Ferry, Walden, Newburgh and Goshen.

He also directed the Classic Choral Society of Orange County for 32 years in concerts including performances of the Messiah at West Point and many other churches in the county.

Arrangements for cremation will be made by the Donovan Funeral Home.  There will be no visitation.  A memorial service is being planned for October, and will be announced later.

Donations may be made to the Barbershop Harmony Society Foundation 110  7th Ave N, Nashville, TN 37203-3704,  Orange County Classic Choral Society, Goshen United Methodist Church.