ALUMNI CASINO NIGHT HELD WITH ALL PROCEEDS GOING TO “WALLY”
SPECIAL FOR THE AJT
On April 19, the AEPi Omicron Chapter at the University of Georgia hosted a philanthropy fundraiser event to benefit their former house caretaker, Walter Willis, who is currently battling cancer.
Walter, or “Wally” as he is affectionately known, served the chapter from 1972 to 2010. Each day, for 38 years, Wally would arrive at the house before sunrise getting everything in perfect working order and serving up some of the best breakfasts known to man. Alumni Joel Turry, writes in a tribute about Wally that “Breakfast and conversation with Wally was THE best start to any day at AEPi.”
Wally’s Southern-style meals of fried chicken, green beans and corn-on-the-cob helped make game-day tailgates and AEPi’s annual Wild West Spring party legendary and still stick strongly in the minds of the thousands who enjoyed them. But Wally didn’t just cook for the boys and keep their fraternity house “habitable.” He was also known to fix their cars and if need be, sell them too. Wally humbly refers to himself as a “jack of all trades, and master of none.”
During Wally’s 38 years of service, more than 1,000 young men joined the AEPi Omicron chapter, and most at some point, lived in the fraternity house. It was Wally’s efforts that kept that house in working order so the chapter’s physical structure could endure and facilitate the ability for AEPi to grow and maintain a strong presence on the UGA campus.
In the tribute, Turry goes on to write, “for nearly four decades, Wally touched the lives of all the AEPi brothers and sweethearts and his warm spirit didn’t just exist at their house on River Road. Forty years ago, Wally constructed a shed in his own back yard and installed shelving, display racks, a freezer and refrigerator. And for as many years, he has stocked his shed with chips, candy, ice cream and sodas. Wally would open his little store each afternoon for the neighborhood kids to come by after school and purchase a snack. He did this so that these children would not have to venture unsafely to the nearby convenience store. And one can only imagine how many kids passed through the doors of his little store over the decades and how Wally impacted and protected their lives; just like he did for all the kids that passed through the doors of the AEPi house.”
The chapter sponsored the event as an alumni casino night complete with dinner and a silent auction of autographed UGA football memorabilia. The proceeds of the evening were earmarked to help Wally with his rising medical expenses. Nearly 200 people attended the event, including 120 alumni from as far away as California and Wyoming. Alumni and active brothers, alike, enjoyed a house full of casino gaming with prizes at the end and plenty of food and fun.
Wally, his wife and several of their children joined the brothers and alumni for this momentous occasion while Master (Omicron’s title for chapter president) Ben Davis, UGA ’15, inducted Wally as an honorary AEPi Omicron brother. Two days later, brothers Daniel Maloon, UGA ’14 and Jeff Oxman, UGA ‘14 proudly delivered Wally and his wife a $10,000 donation check.
Oxman, AEPi’s alumni chair, says, “this event was our largest alumni gathering in decades and by far a shining moment for AEPi. Our brother, Wally was so touched from the outpouring of love and you could feel the magic in the air as our alumni were re-living the glory of their college days right there alongside our active brothers.”
AEPi Omicron was founded at UGA in 1926 as a Jewish fraternity and remains as such to this day. The chapter, with over 100 active members, is consistently in the top three GPA leaders of all UGA fraternities while also maintaining one of the busiest social calendars on the campus. The chapter, rich in tradition, prides itself of its philanthropic goals to give back to the community and help those in need.