Father Walter J. Valladon, MM
Born: March 8, 1915
Ordained: June 21, 1942
Died: February 10, 1990
Father Walter J. Valladon died on February 10, 1990 at the Humana Hospital, San Leandro, California. He was just short of 75 years of age; a priest for forty-eight years.
Walter “Sam” was born on March 8, 1915 in Oakland, California, son of William Valladon and Mary Pavao. He had 3 brothers and 2 sisters. His early education was in Oakland. As an altar boy his desire to become a priest grew and in St. Mary’s School in San Leandro he heard a Maryknoll Missioner give a graphic description of a missioner’s life. He decided to be a Maryknoller and entered our Junior Seminary, Los Altos in 1929. He was ordained on June 21, 1942. All his teachers were favorably impressed with his honesty, reliability and responsibility and considered him a ‘diamond in the rough’, with good leadership qualities.
After Ordination Father Valladon was assigned to our new mission in the Pando. Living alone in his first mission in Porvenir, he quickly became fluent in Spanish and Portuguese and fitted well into the rugged pioneer mission life in the barracas along the Tahuamanu River. In 1947 he moved to the Riberalta Mission and was appointed Procurator for the Pando Vicariate and chaplain for the Maryknoll Sisters Hospital. At the request of his bishop he became a chaplain in the Bolivian army where he enjoyed giving catechetical instruction to the soldiers. He was transferred to the Cobija Parish as pastor in 1947. After furlough in the U.S. in 1950 he returned to the Pando Vicariate as pastor of the Sena Parish and from there he covered the isolated mission stations along the Madre de Dios River. He became known as a prudent, zealous missioner, liked by all the people along the river. In 1957, after furlough, he served for four months as chaplain with the Greenland Contractors Construction Company near the Arctic Circle. In 1959 he went to Riberalta and in the Carmen Parish became Director of the High School, inaugurated Credit Union work, and engaged in Caritas work for the Vicariate. Everywhere he was known as a hard worker.
In 1963 he was again appointed Pastor of the Cobija Parish where his superior wrote of him that ‘he was conscientious, reliable and careful with money, good on the books and exact in all his obligations. He has good balance ad gets along with everybody.’ Endowed with a gruff sense of humor, he was jovial with his confreres and enjoyed sports and banter with them. After 25 years in the Pando he was transferred to La Paz for a short time and then to Santa Cruz in 1971. He was pastor at the town of Minero, where he developed catechetical programs and regular visits to outlying villages.
About this time he became bothered with continued health concerns. With proper medical care he was able to remain in Santa Cruz and work zealously for a few years. Finally he was recalled to the U.S. in 1977. The Superior General wrote to him about returning home: ‘You have given more than the average share of dedicated and zealous service to the Church in Bolivia for 30 years now. You have borne the heat and burden for a long time.’
The climate in California was best for his health, so he took up residence with his mother in San Leandro. He was granted permission to take up limited work in Spanish-speaking parishes in the Oakland Diocese. He served for many years especially at St. Alphonsus Parish, Hayward, California and became the chaplain of the San Leandro Knights of Columbus. On June 15, 1980 he was enrolled in the Special Society Unit with residence at his mother’s, remaining there until he died.
Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated at St. Alphonsus Church in Hayward on Feb. 12, with Fr. William Bergan as principal Celebrant. Burial service was conducted at the Maryknoll Cemetery in Los Altos the following day.