Walter Mess Regatta

  • Hosted By: Virginia Scholastic Rowing Association
  • USRowing Sanctioned Regatta
  • Cancelled




Walter L. Mess was an American spy who ferried agents to and from secret missions in the China-Burma-India theater of World War II, in a speedboat he built himself.  As a member of the highly selective (and highly dangerous) Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the international spy network that was the precursor to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Mess and his tactical group saves thousands of lives, and he made a promise to himself that if he survived the war he would volunteer 50 percent of his time to improving his community.

He kept that promise starting in 1946, by helping the City of Falls Church acquire land for city streets, and made book cases for the library.  Mess chaired the Falls Church Electoral Board for several years, introducing mechanical voting machines, and also helped found the Falls Church Festival to raise funds for playing fields.  In addition to serving as president of the local chapters of the Heart Association and the Red Cross, in 1959 he became a founding member of the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority (NVRPA), serving as chairman for 30 years.  When the W&OD Trail first opened in 1974, Mess oversaw its development, preserving 45 miles of old rail beds from Shirlington to Purcellville.  He led the expansion of the NVRPA to encompass 19 parks, 10,000 acres, and hundreds of trails, while serving on the NVPRA board for 45 years.  Part of that expansion was the acquisition of the 5,000-acre Occoquan Reservoir shoreline.

Walter Mess died in 2013 at the age of 98.  For more information, see his obituaries in the Falls Church News Press, HERE, and the Washington Post, HERE.​