Dr. David Frank Wolter, age 95, made the most of every day of his life, including the last. He died swimming in Lake Washington, an activity he enjoyed for well over 90 years of his long, active and adventurous life. He was Dr. Wolter to his many patients throughout the world, Col. Wolter in his illustrious Air Force career, Dad to his two children, Mark and Sally, Papa to his five grandchildren, Old Papa to his six great-grandchildren and one great-great grandchild, and Dave to his countless friends across the globe.
Born on August 24, 1923 in Everett, Washington, David grew up in South Gate, California where as a youth he learned to fly, paying for lessons by sweeping hanger floors. He graduated from Garfield High School in 1939. In 1942, at the age of 19, he trained as a B-17 co-pilot, and in December of 1943, after marrying 17-year- old Jolly Cook, he and his bomber crew departed for England, where they flew missions over Germany. On March 4, 1944 David was forced to parachute into occupied France after his bomber was shot down as it returned from the first daylight raid on Berlin. Thus began an epic adventure, which included hiding out in a French chateau with a beautiful countess, and aided by a dashing young member of the French Resistance, Dr. Georges Lefebvre. The following June he was captured in Paris and interned in the notorious Frennes prison. David survived brutal interrogations by the Gestapo and turned 21 as a Prisoner of War in Stalag Luft 3. He endured the 380-mile forced march from Poland to the Munich area, where he and his fellow POWs were liberated by General George Patton in May of 1945.
David returned to his young bride in Seattle, and taking advantage of the G.I. bill, obtained his bachelor of science degree in Chemistry at the University of Washington, then his medical degree at the UW Medical School, matriculating in that institution’s 3rd graduating class. Following his residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology, David returned to the military, where he served as an Air Force physician and colonel for the next 25 years, with assignments in Washington, Louisiana, Alaska, Texas, and Wiesbaden, Germany, where he was the Chief of OB GYN in the very city where he’d been incarcerated by the Nazis during the war. There, he and his family made lifelong friends of their former adversaries and learned to speak fluent German as well as passable French.
After his retirement from the Air Force, David entered private practice for the next 19 years on Mercer Island with his longtime friend and colleague, Dr. Harry Kettering. He served at the Chief of Staff at Bellevue’s Overlake Hospital from 1974-75. For years Dave and Jolly hosted “Dr. Wolter’s Easter Egg Hunt” at their Mercer Island waterfront home, attended by the many babies he delivered.
In 1990, David came out of retirement for a second time to establish the Kaiser Permanente OB GYN clinic in Fresno, California. In all, Dr. Wolter delivered over 7,000 babies in his career as a “baby doctor.”
In retirement Dave and Jolly lived life to the fullest, traveling regularly and entertaining a multitude of friends and family at their lovely Mercer Island home, designed and built by their son-in-law David McLaughlin. Known for his sense of humor, David’s zest for life was epic. He skied on snow and water, flew his Cessna 180 floatplane throughout the Pacific Northwest, and swam in Lake Washington from May through September of every year. After Jolly’s death in 2010, David married Mrs. Rhe Jain, a former neighbor and fellow swimming enthusiast, with whom he enjoyed maintaining his focus on health and youthful outlook through long walks and daily swims off the dock at Covenant Shores on Mercer Island with anyone he could convince to join them. Their annual winter visit to Maui to visit Dave’s older brother and swim in the warm Pacific was a highlight of their year.
David will be greatly missed by his son Mark, daughter-in-law Susan, daughter Sally, son-in-law David (McLaughlin); his five grandchildren: Maureen, David (Kinga), Darcy (Zach Carlsen), Christopher (Leticia), and Freddy McLaughlin; his six great-grandchildren: Janie (Zach Birkbeck), Ryan, Addison, Leonard, Jolly, and Aida, and his great-great granddaughter, Georgia, as well as his wife, Rhe, and her children Kamala (Paul Marvy) and Raj Jain (Kelley), and their children, Asher, Noah, and Lucie. The extended Lefebvre family in northern France, and many French, Belgian and German friends join us in mourning David’s passing.
A celebration of David’s long and rich life will take place on the front lawn of Covenant Shores Retirement Community (9104 Fortuna Drive, Mercer Island) overlooking Lake Washington, at 11 am on Saturday, August 24th, which would have been his 96th birthday.
Interment with military honors will take place on Friday, August 23 at 11:30 am at Tahoma National Cemetery.
Donations may be made in David’s name to the American Red Cross, whom he credits with saving his life with their Prisoner of War rations in World War II.