Edward L. Walls Sr., a retired decorated career Army officer and bluegrass banjoist, died Tuesday of leukemia at Easton Memorial Hospital.
The lifelong Centreville resident was 74.
Born in Roberts, Queen Anne's County, Mr. Walls was raised in Centreville, where he graduated in 1954 from Centreville High School.
He enlisted in the Army in 1955 and rose to the rank of chief warrant officer and served with an engineering unit. He completed two tours of duty in Korea, three tours of duty in Vietnam, and was assigned to the Pentagon for five years.
When he was serving in Vietnam, he played Santa Claus for the children who lived in various orphanages.
From 1965 to 1966, he taught military science at Penn State University in State College, Pa.
While in the Army, he earned a bachelor's degree in 1980 in business management from the University of Maryland, College Park.
During his military career, Mr. Walls earned three Bronze Stars and the Legion of Merit. He was discharged in 1984.
After leaving the service, he was superintendent of roads for the Cecil County Department of Public Works. For nine years until retiring in 2000, he was state park manager at the Fair Hill Natural Resources Area.
In his childhood, Mr. Walls' great-grandfather taught him how to play the fiddle, and in addition to hunting, playing bluegrass on his banjo was his "favorite pastime," family members said.
He also wrote music and lyrics, and one of his favorite songs that he had composed was "Freedom's Homecoming."
In 1967, he founded the Bay Country Gentlemen with his three sons and a friend, that played various mid-Atlantic venues on weekends.
Mr. Walls had been a member of the University of Maryland Board of Regents and had been a member of the university's Academic Council.
He volunteered with the Queen Anne's County Fair Committee, Friends for the Preservation of Church Hill Theater, Kent Youth and the Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserves.
He had been married to his second-grade sweetheart, the former Lois McGuire, for 56 years.
Services will be held at 11 a.m. Monday at the Fellows, Helfenbein Funeral Home, 408 S. Liberty St., Centreville.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Walls is survived by three sons, Edward L. Walls Jr. of Cambridge, Mike Walls of Federalsburg and Chris Walls of Catonsville; two daughters, Julia Koening of Berlin and Linda Roy Walls of Galestown, Dorchester County; nine grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter.