Friday, March 04, 2011

Sad Week

The world lost one of the last true cowboys.  Will's grandfather died on February 24, 2011.  He had a heart attack the week prior, and we were fortunate enough to fly up for that weekend and had a good 3 days of laughter, conversation, and reminiscing.  We flew back home, thinking he was going to be ok.  The next day he had a stroke.  We flew up Thursday and got to the hospital right after he passed away.  Seeing his grandmother in the hosipital after he died, snuggling up to her husband of nearly 66 years, was one of the saddest and sweetest things I have ever seen. Even though he's my grandfather by marriage, he is very much my grandpa.  He died 5 weeks short of his 90th birthday.  He is definitely missed.

William Howard Walker


William Howard Walker was born April 12, 1921, in Glenns Ferry, Idaho, at the home of his parents Gilbert and Lena Walker. Bill was the youngest of five siblings including Evelyn, Bert, Virginia and Pat. He passed away February 24, 2011 in Mountain Home, Idaho.

Together with his brother Pat, and father, Gilbert, Bill was part of a third generation family who owned and operated their ranch at Cold Springs Creek. Bill valued hard work, close ties to the land, and solid principles. He toiled to produce better crops, improve the quality of livestock, and clear new land. Opening up three desert entries and developing six irrigation wells were among their ranching accomplishments. When asked what the hardest thing about life on the ranch was, without missing a beat, Bill replied, “The shovel and the pitchfork.”

Bill played football and graduated from Glenns Ferry High School in 1939. He attended college in Pocatello and worked in Seattle at the Boeing aircraft plant, helping assemble the A-1 fighter. Coming home from Seattle in early spring, he bought a sporty Indian motorcycle in Moscow, Idaho, from Addison Stone, a childhood friend. It proved to be quite a task to keep the motorcycle upright for much of the trip was in icy ruts. By the time time he got home, he had a severe sunburn and was chilled to the bone--good thing he was young and tough.

After returning to the family ranch in 1944, Bill was introduced to a young schoolteacher at a friend's home. He and Margaret Blanksma dated and were married on March 30, 1945. They recall how ecstatic people were when the war in Europe ended that summer; Margaret drove down to the field where Bill was working to relay the good news. That evening everyone in the family went to town and celebrated.

Bill honed his musical talents in productive ways. His musical skill emerged in high school, whether he was singing the lead in a musical or entertaining at weddings and funerals. With Bill playing harmonica, and his brother Pat playing the guitar, many good times were had dancing and singing after the spring and fall brandings. At local square dances, he enjoyed being an announcer by calling out lyrics to songs like the Alabama Jubilee or Ghost Riders in the Sky.

Together with Margaret, Bill designed and built a home at the Cold Springs Creek ranch, doubling its size as the family grew to four daughters. He immensely enjoyed attention to detail and instilled quality in his carpentry. Later, he remodeled their present home on Rye Grass Creek and enlarged the Cow Camp Cabin on Bennett Mountain.

History of the local area, his family heritage, and a deeply embedded love of the United States were a great pleasure to him. He and Margaret especially enjoyed their trip to the East Coast and South Carolina, where they visited family and toured the nation's historical treasures.

In the seventies, Bill got a kick out of entering a competition to rename a local credit union. He sketched an oxen-drawn covered wagon and composed a narrative for the contest. His entry, Pioneer Federal Credit Union still stands. Margaret and he enjoyed a trip to Hawaii as the result.

Bill served on the Elmore County Soil & Water Conservation District Board over 20 years, as well as, the Glenns Ferry Highway District Board. He was a member and trustee of the Elks, chairman of Idaho Cattle Association Convention, and past president of the Elmore Cattleman's Association.

Bill was a “Jack of all trades, master of many.” He found satisfaction in adding quality and value to anything he pursued, whether it was improving the land or upgrading the cow herd. He enjoyed his horses and riding on the desert and Bennett Mountain. He designed and installed lines for numerous water troughs and other irrigation projects. He loved a special horse, good cows and special companion dog.

Bill valued his family very much. He was patient in teaching his children and grandchildren life skills and had a quiet and calm manner. He encouraged Margaret and all four daughters to pursue college degrees even though he did not have the same opportunity.

Survivors include his devoted wife of 66 years, Margaret, and their four daughters: Betty Ann Nettleton (Nick), Janet Mahler (Mike), Joan Barak (David), and Sandy Dryden (Dean). Grandchildren: Jeff Nettleton (Tina), Jason Nettleton (Robin), Will Trail (Erin), Amy Trail, Kate Armstrong (Joey), Rebecca Barak, Chase Dryden and Chelsy Dryden.

Rosary services will be held at Rost Funeral Home, 500 N. 18th E., Mountain Home, on Monday, February 28, at 6pm. Funeral mass will be held Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church, 115 N. 4 E., Mountain Home, 10am, on March 1.

Suggested memorial contribution recipients: Elks Rehabilitation or Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church, Mountain Home.

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