Belt reborn in Cronkite namesake

By Andy Garrison

April 9, 2014

The Walter Cronkite Memorial set the stage on Friday, April 4, as the Belt Highway was laid to rest and the Walter Cronkite Memorial Highway was born.

The new Walter Cronkite Memorial Highway, stretching from Frederick Ave. south to I-29, now has two new signs identifying the renamed area.

Spratt’s memorial to the long-time CBS anchor was crowded with guests, including city and state officials, representatives from federal offices and Western students and staff.

Vice President of University Advancement and Executive Director of the Missouri Western Foundation Jerry Pickman was the first to speak.

“It was four months ago to the day on November 4 that we stood in this very place and dedicated the Walter Cronkite Memorial. It was a great day and we had a large crowd for that. Today we have the opportunity to recognize one of St. Joseph’s native sons, Walter Cronkite, again with the Walter Cronkite Memorial Highway,” said Pickman.

Perhaps the largest supporter of the Cronkite Memorial in attendance was Western President Robert Vartabedian. The memorial was, in large part, his vision. Pickman gave praise to the man who made the memorial happen.

“The Walter Cronkite Memorial Highway is the result of his vision and his continued efforts to memorialize one of the most trusted men in America, Walter Cronkite,” said Pickman.

Dr Vartabedian spoke proudly of Cronkite, deeming him St. Joseph’s “native son” and referring to him by first name.

“The Cronkites went back three generation in St. Joe. His father, and his father’s father, was born here in St. Joe,” Vartabedian said. “Many of us refer to him as the most significant journalist of the twentieth century, you have that and ‘the most trusted man in America,’ which was a title he wore for a long time.”

Vartabedian thanked many for their support, including the Missouri Department of Transportation, Buchanan County’s legislative delegation and the community for its overall support.

Mayor Bill Faulkner also spoke to the community’s ability to work cohesively on the highway project.

“I would like to thank Missouri Western and Dr. Vartabedian for working with MoDot and all the legislators to get this done,” Faulkner said. “It’s kind of interesting that the man who paved the way for future journalists now has a stretch of pavement in his name.”