Who Am I? “You Were Meant to Be”
Mr. Anderson always sensed that he didn’t quite belong in his family. On the day that William H. Anderson, Sr. was buried in 1969, Walter Anderson learned that he was the World War II love child of Albert Dorfman, a Russian-Jewish co-worker of his mother. His mother, Ethel Crolly Anderson, told him, “you were meant to be.”
She did not know that Mr. Dorfman had passed away a year earlier. She told her son that he had a half-brother, Herbert Dorfman. Ironically, the brothers shared a career in journalism. Mr. Dorfman was producer of NBC News in New York City.
Mr. Anderson was blessed with an enlightened witness and champion, Ilza Williams, the mother of his best friend Barry and an inordinately resourceful school teacher. Books were his salvation:
I was drawn to books by curiosity and driven by need ~ an irresistible need to pretend that I was elsewhere.
It was my avenue of escape and growth. I could go to a library and open a book. I could be anybody. . .be anywhere. . .do anything. . .imagine myself out of a slum. I read everything.
Mr. Anderson and fellow child abuse survivor Joe Torre were featured in Breaking the Silence: Children’s Stories, a PBS documentary funded by the Mary Kay Ash Charitable Foundation. Mr. Anderson described child abuse:
It is never an event. It is a pattern of behavior. [Abuse] is the systematic diminishment of the child
All of them seemed to have something similar in that they had difficult childhoods, often horrific childhoods, but they had monumental success later in their lives. . .these people had in common: Somebody in their childhood had said, “I believe in you.” And they never forgot it.
31 Years at Parade: From Assistant to Chairman and CEO
During his interview with Jess Gorkin at Parade, he had a defining moment:
I was learning to channel my anger ~ and my fears ~ to productive ends.
. . .for years I had been running from something, and now I was running toward a goal. . .to help expose and relieve social problems such as child abuse, racism and illiteracy. . .each new opportunity gave me a greater chance to influence the issues I cared about most.
Mr. Anderson started his career at Parade as Mr. Gorkin’s assistant in 1977. He became managing editor in 1978. In 2000, he was named chairman and CEO. At Parade, he was able to publish a potpourri of stories to motivate people to use their power to change the world. He told Quest that his Uncle George advised him:
“Walter, you’ve got to make a stink in this life.” Over the years, I’ve understood that to mean you have to make a difference. . .
I want to use whatever influence I have in this life to help people understand that they aren’t helpless, that they are participants.
Mr. Anderson retired from Parade in 2009. During his 31-year tenure, he increased the magazine’s circulation from 21.6 million in 129 Sunday newspapers to 33 million in 470 papers. He joked in an Advertising Age interview that his new “employer” is his grandson Jonathan. He is an avid fisherman. Since his retirement, he co-founded Novium Learning.
He married Loretta Gritz, and the couple have two children and one grandchild. They live in White Plains, NY. Click here to watch a video interview of Mr. Anderson.
He survived. He’s thriving and has found joy.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. Please join me in wearing your purple and celebrating survivors.