Walter E. Ershow, who flew 23 missions over enemy territory during World War II, died on Jan. 9 at the age of 89. The cause was heart failure, his family said. A part-time resident of East Hampton, he had been in declining health since October.
Born in Newark, N.J., on Sept. 14, 1923, to David J. Ershowsky and the former Minnie Reinfeld, he grew up in the Weequahic section of the city. He graduated from Weequahic High School and then attended Virginia Polytechnic Institute.
He was commissioned as a first lieutenant during the war and served as a radar navigator in a B-17 bomber, better known as the Flying Fortress. He flew missions over North Africa, Italy, Germany, and occupied Europe.
“He was a wonderful musician,” his wife, Jacqueline Jankoff-Ershow, said Monday. He would entertain his fellow Army Air Forces fliers by playing a guitar between missions.
After the war, he attended the School of Agriculture at Rutgers College, from which he received a bachelor’s degree in 1948.
He married the former Helene Denberg, and the couple settled down in West Orange, N.J., raising three children. About 20 years later, the couple divorced, and Mr. Ershow moved to Manhattan.
He worked as an industrial sales representative, with boatbuilding as a side passion.
On March 5, 1971, he met Jacqueline Jankoff. “It was a blind date. We met for lunch,” she said. When she went back to work, she told her co-workers, “He is the most interesting man I have ever met.” They were married eight years later, in July 1979.
With an apartment on Manhattan’s West Side, the couple began spending summers in East Hampton, where Mr. Ershow could pursue his love of the ocean. At first they stayed at Sammy’s Beach, then for several years on Schellinger Road before they bought a house on Montauk Boulevard.
Ms. Jankoff-Ershow recalled a defining moment. “I said to him, ‘You like boats. Why don’t you do what you love?’ ”
He did, indeed, love boats, enjoying carving half-hull models as well as building the real thing. “We had a lot of runabouts,” his wife remembered, adding that Mr. Ershow would repair boats of all shapes and sizes, working for marinas as well as privately.
He was a member of the East End Classic Boat Society, the Veterans of Foreign Wars post in East Hampton, and the Second Bomb Group Association. He was an expert sailor and fisherman, piloting boats north to Maine and south to North Carolina.
Besides Ms. Jankoff-Ershow, he is survived by his three children, Abby Ershow of Columbia, Md., Linda Ershow-Levenberg of Elizabeth, N.J., and Don Ershow of Roseland, N.J. A brother, Barrett Ershow of Burlington, Vt., and nine grandchildren also survive.
A service was held on Jan. 13, led by Rabbi Ben Goldstein. Mr. Ershow was buried at B’nai Abraham Memorial Park in Union, N.J., with full military honors.
Donations in his memory can be made to Doctors Without Borders, P.O. Box 5030, Hagerstown, Md., 21741, or Smile Train, P.O. Box 96231, Washington, D.C., 20090.