Obituary: Robert S. Walker IV
Bob Walker of Northport, Michigan died peacefully surrounded by family and without pain on January 13, 2016. He had been diagnosed with lung cancer in 2011 and had undergone extensive treatment and recovery, which granted him four years of joy with his friends, family and grandchildren. He died from complications related to pneumonia at Munson Medical Center in Traverse City. He was 74.
Bob was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts on February 1, 1941 to Robert Stringfellow Walker III and Ruby Shelledy Walker. His brother, Stuart Carter Walker, joined the family in 1944. Bob attended Darien High School in Connecticut and Woodberry Forest School in Virginia. Following graduation from high school, he enlisted in the Marine Corps, where he served as an expert small arms instructor, thanks in part to his boyhood shooting with his nearly blind father and grandfather in Virginia.
After four years in the Marine Corps, Bob was appointed to attend the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. He was honored to serve in various leadership positions, including Company Commander. His service to his country in the Marines and Navy was a source of great pride for him throughout his life. Following Annapolis, he graduated with a degree in engineering from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Bob was introduced to the love of his life, Helen Kathleen “Taffy” Terhune, by their life-long friend Margo Gillespie, when he was one of Margo's three escorts to her debutant ball. After immediate mutual attraction, they dated for eight years. Taffy accepted his second marriage proposal, and they were married at the First Federated Church in Peoria, Illinois in 1970. They affectionately called each other “Our Darling” ever since. Taffy recalled the serious concern she had on their wedding day: the risk of running out of topics of conversation with her new husband.
Bob and Taffy were blessed with three children, Robert Stringfellow “Tad” Walker V, Christopher Carter "Chris" Walker, and Helen Heidrich “Wendy” Walker, all of whom he guided and loved dearly. He coached their soccer and lacrosse teams in elementary school and traveled to games in high school and college. He instilled sage advice to his children when it comes to matters of the heart. He advised them to remember the five most important words of a spouse: “I agree with you, dear.”
He grew up on the golf course at Wee Burn Country Club in Darien, where he recalled evenings playing holes 3-5 with his parents and brother Stuart, while their dogs chased other birdies. He loved to play a quick nine with his kids and Taffy at Northport Point. He played the best golf of his life just weeks before his death. He loved sailing, but after years in the Navy, he was glad to have others polish the brass. He often went on sailing adventures with dear friends Marian and John Niles in Europe and the Caribbean, where he enjoyed the sun, the water and the exotic scenery. He loved flying with his great friend Frank Scalcucci, sometimes over Lake Michigan in a Cessna to watch the Green Bay Packers play football. His favorite delicacy was sushi, often enjoyed in the company of his brother Stuart and his wife Keiko.
Bob spent most of his professional career working in finance and management positions with International Business Machines, first in Detroit and then in New York. He loved his work, and Taffy felt IBM was his mistress. He retired from IBM after 35 years in 2002, and IBM has never recovered.
Later in life, Bob and Taffy retired to Northern Michigan where they sang and danced to their own tunes and in community theater, including productions of My Fair Lady, Oklahoma!, and The Sound Of Music. Bob became an active member of his local church and charities. He and Taffy spent months helping to rebuild New Orleans and Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina, making over eight trips there.
Education was a top priority for Bob. He was a life-long student and was interested in finance and history, especially World War II. It was a great source of pride for him to have provided for the education of his children and others. Bob was a stalwart supporter of Woodberry Forest School, an enthusiasm inherited through its founding by his great grandfather and his grandfather's fifty-year service as headmaster.
He dearly loved his family: his soulmate of fifty years, his three children, his three daughters-in-law, his four grandchildren, and his Labradors, Rocky and Pebbles, whom he loved to take for walks and to give “puppy pats."
Bob was predeceased by his mother and father. He is survived by his wife, Taffy of Northport, MI; son, Tad, and his wife Season Petering of San Francisco, CA, and their daughter, Grace; son, Chris, and his wife Laura of Berkeley Heights, NJ, and their children Elisabeth, Carter and William; daughter, Wendy, and her wife Elizabeth Ghilardi of Saratoga Springs, NY; and Bob's brother Stuart Walker and his wife Keiko Shingai of Sapporo, Japan.
Bob was grateful for the excellent doctors and nurses of Munson Medical Center and the greater Traverse City area, who cared for him in life, eased his transition to death, and counseled and comforted his family in their time of need.
Lovingly written by his children. Semper Fi!
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Trinity Church UCC, PO Box 156, Northport, MI, 49670 or Room to Read (.org).
A service at the Atwill Memorial Chapel of Northport Point will be in May or June.
Condolences may be shared with the Walker family at www.martinson.info.
Arrangements are with the Martinson Funeral Home and Cremation Services of Leelanau.