Kirby Walker, 90, a former mortgage broker and Marine, discovered water conservation as a cause.
One day, well into his 80s, Kirby Walker decided to take on the water cause. People were using far too much of it for his taste.
So he came up with a solution, involving milk jugs and tongue depressors and strategic placement in toilet tanks. Not everyone in his retirement community liked the idea. But Mr. Walker, a former U.S. Marine, pressed on.
“He determined it was the right thing to do, and come hell or high water, he was going to do it,” said his grandson Andy Walker, of Woodinville.
And that was Mr. Walker, for all his 90 years — strong, persuasive vision, and a commitment to the greater good. Known for his wit and wisdom, he used both when telling stories from his life, from the boyhood in a small southern town to the military service during World War II. Mr. Walker died in Seattle of natural causes April 26.
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Born in Moscow, Texas, Mr. Walker worked throughout his childhood, helping his father run a general store and a funeral parlor. He used his savings to attend Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, and after graduation, traded livestock and played shortstop in the minor leagues, his family said.
The day after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, he enlisted in the Marines. A member of the 24th regiment of the 4th Marine division, Mr. Walker made amphibious landings on Roi-Namur, Saipan and Iwo Jima. He was awarded two Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts.
His military service was always a strong point of pride. When his oldest son arranged for two Marines to attend his 90th birthday and give him birthday greetings from the Commandant of the Marine Corps, Mr. Walker described it as the greatest thing that ever happened to him.
Still, throughout his life, he struggled with how he had violated the “Thou shalt not kill” commandment. A friend once assured him the times demanded it, but Mr. Walker was not satisfied.
“I don’t recall that commandment having a subparagraph,” he told his grandson.
Mr. Walker’s parents assumed he would return to Texas after the war. But during training, he met Nancy Goodfellow. Smart and passionate, she was a teacher who would go on to become a charter member of Seattle’s Human Rights Commission.
And that was the end of Texas.
They married and settled in her hometown of Seattle, where Mr. Walker became a mortgage broker with what was then Continental Inc. He rose to executive vice president in a 35-year career there and stressed to his three children the philosophy of work hard, give back, do good.
Doing good always came naturally to Mr. Walker.
“He was not a ‘me’ type of person,” said his sister, Pat Walker, of Houston.
In his later years, at the Hearthstone retirement community in Seattle, Mr. Walker devoted himself to his wife, who had Alzheimer’s disease. When illness forced her into a care unit, Mr. Walker always made sure to lay out her outfit for the next day.
“The best gift a father can give to his children is to love their mother,” said his son, Dee Walker, of Woodinville. “And that’s what he did.”
A few years ago, Mr. Walker discovered water conservation as a cause, and worked in a fever to change the way every toilet flushed at Hearthstone. He got hundreds of donated milk jugs, filled them with water, shoved them into a shopping cart, pushed the cart down the hallway and distributed them to anyone who would have them in their toilet tanks.
And even one who would not. While her apartment was being renovated, Mr. Walker slipped in one night and fit the jug in himself. He was 88, and using a walker at the time.
After all that, his grandson asked Mr. Walker, jokingly, what he planned to tackle next.
“Electricity,” Mr. Walker said.
Mr. Walker, whose wife died two years ago, is survived by two other children, Clara Beier, of New York, and Bill Walker, of Bothell; and four other grandchildren, Joe Walker, of Santa Barbara, Calif., Steve Walker, of Bellingham, Jessie Walker, of Bothell, and Sarah Bishop, of Arlington.
A celebration of Mr. Walker’s life will be held at 4:30 p.m. June 6 at University Congregational United Church of Christ, 4515 16th Ave. N.E. in Seattle. Donations may be made to the Goodfellow-Walker Fund at the church, the Alzheimer’s Association of Washington or the Memory Care Unit at the Hearthstone.
Cara Solomon: 206-464-2024 or firstname.lastname@example.org