Like his father Loren, Wally was tall and slender. But there the similarities ended. Unlike his father, who favored conservative black “swallow tail” coats, Wally was dressed in soiled and mismatched clothing. Wally hadn’t had his hair cut by a barber in 45 years because scissors frightened him–and he wore his brown hair in a long braid.
Wally also scared people. A 14-year-old whose last name was Machado said, “I was afraid of him.” And when he saw Wally, he crossed the street to avoid the encounter.
Everybody wondered what had happened to Wally–some thought he was just born “that way.” His parents explained that as a teenager Wally fell seriously ill with typhoid fever and when he recovered he was not the same boy.
[Scarlet fever was the cause, according to another report which added how much the tragedy embittered Loren Coburn–providing others with “rich gossip” for years.]
He couldn’t accomplish the simplest tasks. Even eating was difficult. He had to wear a leather apron and then like a very small child began drumming on the table with a knife. Entertaining guests became an impossibility, said the Coburns.
One reason Loren married sister-in-law Sarah after his wife’s death was because she had been so kind to Wally.