Now! Not some forgotten yesterday.
Now! Tomorrow is too far away.
So hold this moment fast,
And live and love as hard as you know how,
And make this moment last,
Because the best of times is now, is now, is now...
-- George Hearn and Gene Barry
William Randall Walker lived the best of times for 93 years. With his wife Ellen by his bedside, Bill finally put away his dancing shoes the evening of March 18, 2019, only hours after she and a few close friends had raised a toast to his generous spirit and vibrant life.
The firstborn of William Charles and Margery Walker, Bill arrived New Year's Day, 1926, in Brunswick, Maine. His younger siblings are Bernard W. Walker (deceased) and Mary Walker Fletcher of Florida. In this tiny seaport town where Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin in 1851, Bill got his first job at 16, raking blueberry and potato fields.
The day after his high school graduation, Bill enlisted in the Army Air Corps. "Our B-29 aircraft was stationed in the South Pacific," he explained in a 2007 magazine article. "Although the Enola Gay was parked next to us, we didn't know until later the plane carried an atomic bomb." After discharge, Bill returned to the States, enrolled in college and played football for the University of Maine.
By the 1950s, Bill was traveling coast to coast for work. Eventually, he settled in San Diego, where just shy of his 30th birthday, he married his first wife, Vehenia Elena "Rusty" Castillo. During the next three decades, Bill managed hundreds of employees in the aerospace industry. After his retirement at 56, he ramped up his leisure travel -- particularly ocean cruising -- and volunteered for the Old Globe Theater, San Diego Symphony and the San Diego Zoo. Bill and Rusty had been married 42 years when she passed away in 1995.
Seven years later, Bill met Ellen, a successful real estate broker in the city. "I never thought I'd find anyone like her -- smart, always on the go, a good dancer, a very spiritual person. But time is a great healer," Bill once said. The two became fast friends, and Bill soon asked his "Sweetie" to marry him. Ellen's grown children -- Mark MacBride and Meredith MacBride, both of San Diego -- heartily approved. "Bill would always rise above everything, stay positive, smile and carry on...always," said Mark. "And he always treated my mother like a queen." Meredith added, "Besides being an amazing man, he made the tastiest Bloody Mary, hands down! Most of all, he was unflappable."
The couple moved to Hot Springs in 2004, where they quickly established themselves on the social and philanthropic scenes of the city. The Walkers' home became a castle of hospitality and Bill, dressed in appropriate costumes of the season, ruled his kingdom from behind the bar.
Everyone who knew Bill appreciated his gregarious personality, enjoyed his tales of adventure, made use of his knowledge of vitamin supplements, and became kinder because of his gentle nature. His authentic smile and twinkling eyes made everyone comfortable. His signature laugh punctuated his inimitable wit. And his loving heart embraced all of life itself.
Bill leaves behind Ellen; Mark; and Meredith; as well as his trusty sidekick Jim Tucker; plus a host of friends -- including Cindy, "the cheese lady" at Kroger; and Alex from Corner Liquor. We will miss Bill's coffee closet, his wine and Scotch collections, his bargain-hunting savvy, his coupon sharing, his enthusiasm for the Arkansas Razorbacks and San Diego Chargers, and perhaps most of all, his dancing with Ellen.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorials to be made to the Hot Springs Jazz Society; P.O. Box 22662; Hot Springs, AR 71903.
Online guestbook and tributes are available at https://www.GrossFuneralHome.com.Obits on 03/24/2019
Print Headline: William R. Walker