Walter Dunnington Shields, Jr. (“Watt”), 75, of Christiansburg, passed away on Jan. 12, 2023, after a valiant fight for life following a stem cell transplant in 2019 to conquer Acute Myeloid Leukemia.
Watt was born on July 18, 1947, to Walter Dunnington Shields, Sr., and Ann Kingdon Shields in Bluefield, W.Va. After graduating from Christchurch School, he attended and graduated from Marshall University.
A lifelong lover of science, Watt achieved his Doctor of Dental Science at the Medical College of Virginia in 1974. He was commissioned as a captain in the United States Army and retired as a colonel in 1994. He completed a master’s degree at George Washington University and completed his residency in periodontology in 1981.
During his military service, he was awarded the Legion of Merit, the Order of Military Medical Merit, the Surgeon General’s Specialty Designator, and three Meritorious Service Medals. He loved teaching and served as an instructor in the U.S. Army dental residency programs.
Watt established his periodontology practice in Blacksburg in 1994. Even in private practice, he thrived on learning and continuously sought to master the latest innovations in his field, even completing advanced training in Sweden. He led the New River Valley study club for area dentists for 14 years to discuss the latest in dental research from around the world. He also led an informal cabal of local dentists at one of his favorite restaurants, The Cellar, where topics could include anything except dentistry.
He was a former President of the Virginia Society of Periodontists. One of his proudest achievements was serving as a mentor in the Virginia Tech Pre-Dental Society where he helped launch the careers of numerous future dentists.
Watt’s academic papers were published in the Journal of Periodontology, the Journal of the American Dental Association, and the Journal of the U.S. Army Medical Department. A meticulous scientific data collector and researcher to the end, Watt was actively collaborating up until the time of his death with colleagues at the Medical University of the South Carolina College of Dental Medicine on a paper based on more than 20 years of his clinical findings.
Watt met his future wife, Tandy Tully Shields, at Marshall University in 1969. They moved to Richmond in 1970 where Tandy launched her career in communications and supported Watt as he completed dental school. They married on Aug. 14, 1971, and after Watt was commissioned, they traveled around the world to eight different military assignments with their three children. Watt’s favorite assignments were their six years in Germany where he particularly enjoyed “Volksmarches,” 10- to 20-kilometer organized hikes through the countryside with leisurely stops for beer and bratwursts and an oompah band at the end.
Watt retired in 2018 and enjoyed hiking and biking around the New River Valley, especially on the Huckleberry Trail where he sponsored a bench. He loved escorting Tandy to the latest showings at the Lyric and was proud to sponsor a seat at the theater. A lifelong cinephile, Watt and his son, John, had weekly boys nights out, and they never missed a new movie. He enjoyed visiting his daughters in Northern Virginia and seeing his five grandchildren. Watt loved hosting his extended family at Flat Top Lake in West Virginia and captaining them on his pontoon boat. He loved traveling, and some of his favorite recent trips included a tour of Prague with his three children to celebrate his 70th birthday and visiting the Grand Canyon last year where he rode a burro around the rim.
Predeceased by his parents, Watt is survived by his wife of 51 years, Tandy, and his three children, Maurine Tully Shields Fanguy, Elizabeth Dunnington Shields Murphy (Robert), and John Kingdon Shields. He also leaves behind five grandchildren, Julia Fanguy, John “Jack” Fanguy, James “Emmett” Murphy, Maeve Murphy, and Kathleen “Kate” Murphy. He is also survived by his sister, Ann Shields Stone (Jerry), and his brother, Edward Southard Shields.
Services will be held at McCoy Funeral Home, 150 Country Club Drive in Blacksburg today, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023. Visitation is at 1 p.m. and the funeral service is at 2 p.m. with the Rev. Douglas Kanney officiating. A reception will be held after the service at The Village Center, 2387 Warm Hearth Drive in Blacksburg. Later this year, he will be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests blood or platelet donations through the Red Cross or contributions to a local Habitat for Humanity chapter.