W.H. (Walter) Draper

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Walter Draper is another mystery. Like Milton “Bud” Brown, according to former Engineering Dean George Ford in his history of the faculty, there are no records of Walter other than his graduation in May 1913.

Yet once more, the old calendars and alumni magazines, coupled with the Comforts Club’s chatty letters during the First World War, unearth at least some pieces of Walter’s life.

Walter was the only one the five original engineering grads to hail from Edmonton South, today’s Old Strathcona. Back then, Edmonton and Strathcona were rival cities, and being identified as an Edmonton South student set you apart. In 1912, Edmonton and Strathcona amalgamated to form today’s City of Edmonton, but at the time Walter enrolled in Engineering, the rivalry between Edmonton North and Edmonton South was palpable, and each was a distinct group.

When it came to grades, Walter was the middle of the pack except for “materials of construction” and “graphical statics” where he excelled. Walter’s class standings are recorded in early U of A calendars and leave this indelible footprint.

Walter graduated in May 1913, and received his certificate in land surveying right after his buddy Joe Doze. Shortly thereafter, Walter headed to the battlefields of Europe with D Company, Second Battalion Canadian Railway Troop, which was part of the British Expeditionary Force. He immediately went into training and wrote to the Comforts Club to say he had arrived safely in Europe. There is no further correspondence home from Walter except for a thank-you letter to the Comforts Club for a care package. In that letter, Walter tells of the shell shock experienced by a U of A engineering classmate C.W. Ritson (BSc 1914).

By 1917 Walter received his commission and attained the rank of lieutenant. He took a leave of absence in August and travelled to Ireland to marry his Canadian sweetheart, Lenore Patterson, daughter of Reverend William Patterson of Cook’s Church, Toronto. The news was received with great joy back on campus—a tender relief from the endless news of death and dreadful wounds. The young women in charge of writing the Comforts Club newsletter, under the direction of engineering professor Muir Edwards, ran a front-page picture of the dashing Walter “just to show you what a fine looking chap that girl got!”

Walter’s commission meant he would be in the thick of war, but he survived. We know little about his life after that.

It appears that he was employed by the Canadian National Railway Company after the War. He was registered as Alberta Land Surveyor #118 on June 6, 1921. Walter was also a Dominion Land Surveyor and Saskatchewan Land Surveyor. Reports indicate he moved to the United States in the 1920s.

Walter eventually settled on Atlas Avenue in Toronto with Lenore, was employed by the Province of Ontario, and survived a serious illness in the late 1920s. Walter and Lenore raised a son, John William Patterson Draper, who married in St. Thomas, Ontario, in 1945. Walter’s trail then ends.

Source: U of A Engineer Magazine, 100 Years Later: Our First Five Engineers, Fall 2013