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Stacy Conradt

Grave Sightings: Walter Cronkite

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Stacy Conradt

Beloved news anchor Walter Cronkite tearfully reported the news of John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963. A decade later, he took a call delivering the news of Lyndon B. Johnson’s death live on-air. He told the world about Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination in 1968. And when the most trusted man in America himself died on July 17, 2009, at the age of 92, it was reported by news outlets around the globe.

Color photo of anchorman Walter Cronkite in his later years, wearing a pinstriped suit, a blue-and-white-striped dress shirt, and a navy tie with a red pattern on it.

Although Cronkite made a career and a reputation out of breaking and reporting news on a nightly basis for nearly two decades, his own illness was kept under wraps. His family announced that he was suffering from cerebrovascular disease just a few weeks before his death.

The funeral at St. Bartholomew Church in Manhattan was a star-studded affair filled with former coworkers and competitors such as Diane Sawyer, Dan Rather, and Barbara Walters. After a number of poignant speeches by friends, family, and colleagues, the funeral concluded with a raucous rendition of “When the Saints Go Marching In,” which friends said would have pleased Cronkite, an amateur clarinetist.

A shot of Walter Cronkite's pink marble gravestone, set flat into the ground and surrounded by grass.

If you want to pay your respects to Uncle Walter, however, you won’t find him in New York. Despite his longtime residency in Manhattan, Cronkite was buried in Kansas City, Missouri, where he spent some time early in his career as a broadcaster at KCMO radio station, reading news and summarizing football games under the name Walter Wilcox. But it wasn’t cherished memories of the job that brought him back to the Show Me State for all eternity—it was his wife. While Cronkite was working at KCMO, a writer named Betsy Maxwell caught his eye. They got married in 1940. Betsy died from cancer complications in 2005 and was buried in her family plot at Mount Moriah Cemetery in Kansas City, Missouri. Cronkite joined her four years later.

Close-up image of the gravestone of news anchor Walter Cronkite and his wife, Mary. The small stone is pink marble and set into the ground.

For such a legend, the stone is simple and unassuming, not entirely unlike the man himself. Though he "loved being Walter Cronkite, being around all those celebrities," journalist David Halberstam once said that Cronkite could never seem to believe that he had entered the realm of celebrity himself. Part of Cronkite never left his hometown of St. Joseph, Missouri, Halberstam said—which makes it only fitting that he returned to the area for his final sign-off.

Peruse all the entries in our Grave Sightings series here.

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Thanks to a Wet Winter, New Zealand Faces a Potential Potato Chip Shortage
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New Zealand has plenty of unique and tasty snacks, but kiwis also love potato chips. The universal comfort food is in danger Down Under, however, as an unusually wet winter has devastated the island country’s tuber crops, according to BBC News.

Twenty percent of New Zealand’s annual potato crop was wiped out from a series of major storms and floods that ravaged the nation’s North and South Islands, The Guardian reports. In some regions, up to 30 percent of potato crops were affected, with the varieties used to make chips bearing the brunt of the damage.

Potato prices spiked as farmers struggled, but the crisis—now dubbed “chipocalypse” by media outlets—didn't really make the mainstream news until supermarket chain Pak’nSave posted announcements in potato chip aisles that warned customers of a salty snack shortage until the New Year.

Pak’nSave has since rescinded this explanation, claiming instead that they made an ordering error. However, other supermarket chains say they’re working directly with potato chip suppliers to avoid any potential shortfalls, and are aware that supplies might be limited for the foreseeable future.

New Zealand’s potato farming crisis extends far beyond the snack bars at rugby matches and vending machines. Last year’s potato crops either rotted or remained un-harvested, and the ground is still too wet to plant new ones. This hurts New Zealand’s economy: The nation is the world’s ninth-largest exporter of potatoes.

Plus, potatoes “are a food staple, and this is becoming a food security issue as the effects of climate change take their toll on our potato crop,” says Chris Claridge, the chief executive of industry group Potatoes New Zealand, according to The Guardian.

In the meantime, New Zealanders are preparing to hunker down for a few long months of potential potato peril—and according to some social media users, kale chips are not a suitable alternative. “Chipocalypse” indeed.

[h/t BBC News]

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Supermarket Employees to Compete in National Bagging Competition
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In today’s busy world, efficiency is king—especially at grocery stores, where long checkout lines can turn even the most patient shopper into a petulant purchaser. It only makes sense, then, that a nationwide competition exists among supermarket employees to determine the country’s best bagger.

As the Associated Press reports, Alysha Orrok, a teacher from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, recently won her state’s Best Bagger competition. She’s now headed to the U.S. finals, which will take place in Las Vegas in February 2018 and is sponsored by the National Grocers Association (NGA).

In Las Vegas, finalists from more than a dozen states—ranging from Washington to Florida—will duke it out onstage to see who’s truly king or queen of the checkout line. Competitors will be judged on weight distribution, appearance, speed, and technique (no smushed bread or bruised fruits allowed).

Orrok, who works evenings and weekends at a local grocery store, says she was initially clumsy on the job. “My first day as a bagger I dropped a soda and it exploded everywhere,” she told NBC Boston.

Over time, though, Orrok got so good at her side gig that she decided to compete in the New Hampshire state bagging competition earlier this month. At the tournament, "I was like 10 seconds faster than the next person," Orrok said. "I feel like I get in the zone and I just fly."

Competitors heading to 2018’s Best Bagger competition will face off to see who can achieve the best customer service in the shortest time span. The grand prize is $10,000, which will be awarded to a deserving grocery store employee “with infectious company pride and an enthusiastic commitment to customer service,” according to the NGA.

[h/t NBC Boston]

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