Walter Ungerer

August 26, 1935 - July 24, 2024

Burial Date

Obituaries » Walter Ungerer

ROCKPORT, ME – It is with great sadness that we mourn the passing of Walter Max Paul Otto Ungerer, 88, who was a long-time resident of Central Vermont. Walter died peacefully on Monday, June 24, 2024, at the Sussman House in Rockport, Maine.

Walter was born on August 26, 1935, in New York City to Irene (Baudach) and Max Ungerer from Germany. First and foremost, Walter was an artist (as well as a great basketball player!). He began his college studies at the Pratt Institute in New York City, where he received a Bachelor of Fine Arts. From there he went to Columbia University, earning a Master of Fine Arts and progressing to the doctorate level. At that time, his first focus was painting and ceramics, but he became interested in film, took classes and then taught at Columbia. As his film career began, which spanned over fifty years, he became a fixture in the Village and underground art community of New York City.

Due to his support of a student group protesting the Vietnam War, Columbia ended his teaching contract before he could be awarded his PhD. In need of work, he ended up in Vermont, teaching film and photography for some time at Goddard College. Walter loved Vermont, teaching film at a variety of other colleges, including the University of Vermont and Middlebury College.

Walter produced a few documentaries on subjects he cared about. During his many years in Vermont, he made several longer experimental narrative films. Lack of funding and a curiosity about the creative potential for video and the computer were an incentive for him to switch to making much shorter computer-generated works. These could be likened to a difference between prose and poetry, shooting with digital cameras and working with computer software. He continued with his original intuitive approach, with a predilection for the themes of nature, earth, the unknown, and the unknowable. He moved to Maine in 2003 to live with his partner, Dianna Rust.

Walter’s beautiful short films resulted from many hours spent at his computer, piecing images together and marrying them with wonderful sound effects and music. He became an expert editor. His work has been shown at many venues, colleges, and art galleries, with great acclaim at home and internationally. Walter’s films have truly become ‘film as art.’

Walter lived a very full and rich life, always with humility and kindness. A friend recently said, “Walter was such a gentle and generous spirit, and such a passionate and compassionate human being that everyone with a heart would soon come to like him.”

He loved his family and was always adamant about keeping in touch with everyone, including with family in Germany. Walter is predeceased by his parents, Irene and Max Ungerer, and younger brother Richard Ungerer. He is survived by his sister, Edee Caristo, and her husband Bobby; his sister-in-law, Valerie Ungerer; his daughter, Anna Melen, and her husband Matt; his three grandchildren, Mason, Lukas and Kaleb Melen; his second wife and Anna’s mother, Jennifer Hart; his first wife, Kathryn Davis; his nieces, Melissa Creighton and Dorothy Ungerer, and their husbands; and several great nieces and nephews. He will be missed terribly by all, especially by his partner, Dianna, and their beloved dog, Bowie.

He wanted just a simple cremation, though the family plans to have a celebration of his life at a later date.

If you would like to donate in his name, then please make it to a charity of your choice, to one that you think will make a difference.

To share a memory or condolence with Walter’s family, please visit their Book of Memories at Arrangements are in the care of Burpee, Carpenter & Hutchins Funeral Home, 110 Limerock Street, Rockland, Maine.

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