William Wharton - Writer, Teacher and Painter

William Wharton - Upper Darby

William Wharton was born in Philadelphia and graduated from Upper Darby High School in 1943. He served in World War II and was severely injured in the Battle of the Bulge. His memoir, Shrapnel, tells of the trauma of his role in the killing of German prisoners.

Following his discharge from the army, he attended the University of California where he graduated with an undergraduate degree in art and a doctorate in psychology. Throughout his life he was a teacher and an artist, and did not begin writing until past the age of 50. His first book, Birdy, won the National Book Award for First Novel.

Over the next 25 years he produced 10 additional books in English and nine books released in Polish. Three of Wharton's books became movies: Birdy, a book about a poor boy who raises canaries for sale (the setting is the Stonehurst section of Upper Darby); Dad, starring Jack Lemmon; and Midnight Clear, a fictional account of an American Intelligence unit that finds a German Platoon wishing to surrender to the allies.

Wharton spent his adult life predominately in France. He lived on a houseboat, in an old mill, and painted on the streets of France. He died in 2008 and has a place on the Upper Darby High School Wall of Fame.