At the age of 16, Walter “Wally” Paul Lester Jr. was riding on the wave of fame from his band’s hit single, “Since I Don’t Have You.” The song has been covered by multiple artists since its release in 1958, including Guns N’ Roses and Barbra Streisand. Mr. Lester sang tenor with the five-person doo-wop band known as “The Skyliners.”
Mr. Lester, of St. James Plantation, died April 20, 2015, after battling pancreatic cancer. He was 73.
Mr. Lester started his music career at the age of 13 when he, Jack Taylor and Jimmy Beaumont sang in a band named “The Cresents.” In 1958, the three combined with Joe Versharen and Janet Vogel to create The Skyliners. Joe Rock was their advocate, according to The Skyliners website, and wrote the lyrics for the gold-record-winning heartbreak ballad, “Since I Don’t Have You,” inspired by a recent breakup.
Mr. Lester was attending a Catholic school at the time of The Skyliners’ big success and the school wasn’t happy with him touring, said his wife, Cecelia Lester, so he dropped out. The bandmates lived in New York during their touring days and traveled with fellow doo-woppers like Little Anthony and the Imperials.
Although Mr. Lester enjoyed the band life, “the Beatles invasion” was tough on him, Mrs. Lester said. Her husband left the band in 1961 to finish high school and start a family. The original bandmates had one last go-round in the 1970s, “touring with oldie but goodie groups,” but with three sons, a fourth on the way and a career with Clairol, Inc., Mr. Lester’s priorities had shifted.
Life without the band was anything but boring, though, according to Mrs. Lester. The couple enjoyed 51 years of laughter.
“We made a good pair because we had the same sense of humor. A weird sense of humor. Unfortunately, my kids got it too,” Mrs. Lester laughed.
She treasures the many inside jokes created during their long life together. It was the fullness and longevity that made his sickness easier to handle, Mrs. Lester said. In their eyes, they’d made it into their 70s, raised good, healthy sons who respected them and truly loved the life they’d shared.
People found their acceptance difficult to understand, but Mrs. Lester and her husband thought it was unfair to complain about a life well lived when so many people died at much younger ages.
So they laughed. Mr. Lester made jokes with the hospice workers and reminisced with his wife over photo albums. Now, Mrs. Lester enjoys her memories.
Mr. Beaumont called when he heard of Mr. Lester’s death and told Mrs. Lester, “He was the only one in this world who could make me laugh when things weren’t going right,” and Mrs. Lester agreed wholeheartedly.
In addition to his wife Mr. Lester is survived by his sons, Douglas (Lisa), David and Darren (Shawn), of northern Virginia and Daniel (Becky), of Southern Shores; eight grandchildren, Jonathan (Samantha), Alaina, Kevin, Dylan, Allison, Madison, Justin and Matthew Lester; and one great-grandson, Shane Lester.
A funeral Mass will be held at 1 p.m. Tuesday, April 28, 2015, at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Southport. After the mass he will be interred at the columbarium at Sacred Heart Catholic Church and a luncheon will follow at the Church Social Hall.
In lieu of flowers, please donate to Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research or Lower Cape Fear Hospice in his name.
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Amanda Thames is the obituary writer for Port City Daily. Reach her at 910-772-6319 or firstname.lastname@example.org.