Walter F. McLaughlin

Inducted: 2022
Born: 1938
Died: 2021

WALTER F. McLAUGHLIN was born in Providence on May 7, 1938 to John C. and Eleanor (Martin) McLaughlin. Walter was taught by The Sisters of Notre Dame at St. Teresa’s School on Manton Avenue and lived his young life in the Olneyville Section of Providence. His father committed suicide in 1950 leaving Walter and his mother to fend for themselves. Walter’s hero was the late Fr. Peter J. Gibbons, his pastor, who took Walter under his wing and paid his tuition to LaSalle Academy where he graduated as part of what Walter called “the great class of 1957.” Early life was hard for Walter who worked many menial jobs. He loved baseball and played on C.Y.O and American Legion teams.

In his junior year at LaSalle, he was given a job to be an errand boy at the Cranston Print Works Company and to play on the company softball team. He became a star of the team, and this success led to his promotion to cost analyst in the company’s main office.

In 1960, Walter joined the Rhode Island Air National Guard serving as Sgt. Air Policeman in the 143rd Tactical Airlift Group. After his active-duty, he returned to work at the Print Works. He also enrolled at Bryant College in a degree program in economics and became credit manager of CPW.

In 1965, Walter accepted a position as a credit officer for a large Boston bank. In late 1966, at the age of 28, he was recruited by Old Stone Bank in Providence for his credit background, while continuing his evening studies at Bryant.

In 1974 Walter left the banking field to establish McLaughlin Automotive Stores. Over the years, his automotive company became a leader in auto parts distribution, employing over 100 people in its warehouse and 8 local stores. He also started and sold two other businesses and wed the former Wanda Peckham. In 2011 McLaughlin Automotive Stores was sold to Fisher Auto Parts of Virginia allowing Walter and Wanda to retire.

During his long business career, Walter served on many boards and commissions. His term on the National Automotive Service Industry Association gained him national exposure and helped with the expansion of his company. Walter said he could not have achieved success without Wanda because she was his true partner.

Walter’s second love was his alma mater, LaSalle Academy. He served on LaSalle’s Board of Directors for many years and was its chairman from 1997-2000. LaSalle’s Athletic Center is called “The McLaughlin Athletic Center” because of the time and money he contributed to the school’s vaunted athletic programs and its scholarship fund. Walter has been inducted into the La Salle Academy Hall of Fame.

Walter served as a director of the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame on which Wanda was also a director. In 2001-2002, Walter served a term as Hall of Fame president. Both have continued to support the organization for over two decades.

Walter died on July 4, 2021 and is survived by Wanda. He was buried with military honors in Providence’s Swan Point Cemetery.

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