Kevin Cody

Debbie Walmer memorial at American Matryrs a lovefest and storyfest

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Monsignor John Barry recalls Debbie Walmer as a daily attendee at Mass who prayer for others, but never herself. Photo by Kevin Cody

 Story and photos by Kevin Cody

Passersby, hearing bagpipes and seeing 500 people in beach chairs, socially distanced on the grass at the American Martyrs athletic field last Thursday, might have thought they were witnessing an Irish story telling festival.  

The gathering was a memorial for Debbie Walmer, who passed away Oct. 9 at age 83. It began with Monsignor John Barry recalling that the mother of five was a daily attendee at morning Mass and always sat on the same side of the church. When asked why, she answered, to stay away from the sinners who sit on the other side of the church. And how did she know they were sinners? Because, she told the monsignor, they are my best friends.

Walmer’s daily Mass attendance could be explained by the countless people she prayed for, though she never prayed for herself, the monsignor said.

Friends and family recalled Walmer as a respected Realtor; honored civic leader; widely traveled; keeper of tradition; and role model to her five children.

As if anticipating questions about how one person could be all those things, Monsignor Barry read a poem written at the turn of the last century by Detroit Free Press columnist Edgar Albert Guest. The poem begins:

Somebody said that it couldn’t be done
But he with a chuckle replied 
That “maybe it couldn’t,” but he would be one
Who wouldn’t say so ‘til he tried.
So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin
On his face. If  he worried he hid it.
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done, and he did it. 

“Imagine 500 people gathering in the midst of a pandemic because we just want to say, ‘Debbie, we love you,’” Monsignor Barry said. ER

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