POWHATAN – Owen Rucker Walker, who served on the Powhatan County Planning Commission for more than three decades, was a lifelong farmer in the community, and was a proud member of American Legion Post 201 for 55 years, has died.
Walker, who died on Thursday, Oct. 10 at age 78, was remembered by friends and colleagues for his years of service to the community in various ways.
Walker lived in Powhatan all of his life with the exception of four years at Virginia Tech, two years in the U.S. Army, and two years teaching as a certified vocational agriculture teacher in another locality.
He was a staple of the planning commission for more than 30 years, and his work spoke to his love for Powhatan County, said supervisor Bill Melton, who previously served on the planning commission with Walker.
“He was great mentor to me as well to other planning commission members. He approached all cases with civility to all parties and worked hard to ensure he had considered all sides before voting on all cases. His understanding of the history of growth and zoning in Powhatan will be truly missed,” Melton said. “I will miss his infectious laugh, love for life, and friendship.”
Supervisor David Williams, who also previously served on the commission with Walker, agreed he was the “historian” of the board. If someone wanted to know how anything came about in the county, “Owen was your guy.”
“He felt very strong about this county, he loved this county, he was part of this county, and I think he was emblematic of what this county is about. It is about serving. And he freely gave of his time – to the planning commission, the American Legion, and to Legion Ball. We are going to miss him,” Williams said.
Planning commission Chair Karin Carmack called Walker a “true gentleman” who was “very respectful and had a great wit about him. He will be missed.”
Walker gave an interview to the Powhatan Today in June 2019 in which he talked about his history with dairy farming in Powhatan County. When he was 2 years old in 1942, his father, G.A. Walker, started a Grade A dairy in Powhatan, a tradition that Owen Walker embraced fully as he grew older.
During his years away from Powhatan County he had to make a decision about the direction his life could take – a teacher, a military man, or a dairy farmer. But while he did teach for several years at Huguenot Academy as an industrial arts teacher, after starting up his own dairy farm in 1968, Walker said the farm is where he felt he belonged – “It was in my blood.”
“It was a lot of hard work, but if you managed right, back in those days you could make a good living,” Walker said in June. “I basically started on my own and it was tough. Daddy helped. We swapped equipment back and forth.”
Walker’s decision to retire from the dairy business in March 2006 wasn’t difficult, he said. He had four daughters who were interested in the work but found better jobs. He was also already getting into the beef business and he said he was just tired.
Max W. Timberlake Jr., president of the Powhatan Farm Bureau Federation, said that as a lifelong farmer, Walker was a long-term member of the Farm Bureau and served on the board of directors. Between being a farmer and serving on the planning commission, Walker “was faithful to serve his county under multiple different administrations and economic conditions.”
Another important way Walker served the community was by being an active member of American Legion Post 201 for 55 years, including serving in different elected offices such as commander, finance officer, and athletic officer, said Ray D’Aguanno with Post 201. When American Legion Post 354 was looking at disbanding its baseball team in 2000, Walker was one of the leaders that were key to relocating the team to Post 201.
“Mr. Walker was a key fixture at all post activities. He was front and center at the wine festivals and Christmas Parade selling Brunswick stew for the post. If there were any quarts of stews left from these events, then he would visit the local businesses to sell it to those who did not get any,” D’Aguanno said. “Owen was also at the American Legion Post 201 sponsoring of the National Guard Family Day each year. This event allowed the Post to thank the National Guard and their family members.”
In 2016, Walker was instrumental in the effort to bring the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall to Powhatan, Timberlake said. He worked on that project extensively from the very start and considered it one of his big accomplishments in the Legion.
Each summer, Walker was ever present at the American Legion Senior Baseball games and would even travel to some of the away games to support the team, D’Aguanno said.
Every spring without fail, you could always count on a call from Walker asking for a donation to keep the baseball team going, Williams said.
“He was very instrumental in keeping Legion Ball alive in this county. A lot of posts haven’t been able to sustain it because of the cost. But Owen was going to make sure that the money was there that we had Legion Ball here in the county,” Williams said.
Similar to one holding court, Walker was always the center of attention, D’Aguanno said. People who met him were drawn to “his wonderful personality, larger than life smile, and multitude of stories.” A few months after joining the post, D’Aguanno said Walker supported him while he was learning about becoming the adjutant. He talked about visiting the older man at his home and never wanting the visits to end.
“He left me smiling, appreciating life at all times. I pray that I can follow in his footsteps,” he said. “Owen was a great man, great mentor, great father, great grandfather, great American and a very honorable man. God has taken a great friend from me and I pray to see him again one day.”
Owen R. Walker is survived by his daughters, Gwen Bates (Steve), Carole Walker, Jill Fields, Adele Walker-Blue (Bob); sister, Elinor Lindsey; brother, Leonard Walker, and seven grandchildren.
Laura McFarland may be reached at Lmcfarland@powhatantoday.com.