Obituary of Bill Walker
Maybe you’ve seen this guy recycling, which he did for 18 years, in or behind your favorite bar or restaurant, or on the street loading up his truck? Or maybe in a dumpster at the Rollins Lake Campground, or even walking up Hwy 20 to 80 picking up cans and bottles along the sides of the road. Or what about in your neighborhood, doing yard work for folks in the area? You may have met Bill at Grass Valley Farmers Market or at a Cornish Christmas, where he sold the jewelry he made, as well as rocks and minerals he collected. Children were always his favorite customers and many items went home with interested kids for free. Then there were all those Victorian Christmases when he dressed as an old-time Butler and was stationed inside the Nevada City Hall. Or you might have had a lucky encounter on an all-night binge in the poker room at the Peppermill Casino in Reno.
Bill Walker was his name, born in Hawaii June 29, 1946. His mother was a native Hawaiian girl, his father a Navy man, from Oklahoma. The early years were spent moving around the mainland U.S. Childhood was a string of hardships, like frequent beatings from his alcoholic father. The family would often sleep outside in a field to avoid this behavior. Bills manner of survival was by reaching the place within where he felt no pain. The beatings continued into his high school years, until a coach saw his back, went to his house, and informed the father, that if he ever touched the boy again, he would return and do likewise to him. Another memory from his past was when the family lived in Astoria, Oregon. His father went out to sea for 2 weeks, leaving them without money or food. But there was fresh snow on the ground, some sugar in the cupboard, and by his mother’s resourcefulness, they lived on “snow cones” until the father returned.
Bill loved the company of animals and had an uncanny way of communicating with them. When his family moved back to Hawaii, he joined the 4-H club. At 13 he won “Showmanship” with his steer “Mr. Big”, and the following year “Grand Champion” with “Champ”.
While in high school Bill was in the ROTC. Upon graduation he served in the Navy, stationed in the Philippines. When he returned home to Hawaii, he worked at Wing Coffee, Sand Island Cement, several years landscaping, and 15 years for Matson Shipping Lines. In the midst of all this he married and had a family of five. Bill was the type of man you wanted to have around, he worked hard, could fix anything and was an endless reservoir of love, generosity and good storytelling. After many unfortunate years of being devalued and unappreciated, serious drinking became his full-time occupation and he found himself living on the street. Homeless, though they were, he and his friends had rules, never leaving their garbage or feces around, or their fires out of control. They had cooperative arrangements with store owners and night watchmen.
I met Bill while I was on a walk around RN for Kalihi Palama Health Care for the Homeless. He had the worst case of head lice ever. So I guess you could say it wasn’t “love at first sight”! After a few months and countless encounters, I came to know Bill as the most open-hearted, down-to-earth communicator I had ever met. Not only was he polite and honest, but more than willing to make the changes needed to get back on his feet. He eventually signed himself into a 6-month rehab program at Salvation Army. He took it to heart, and was extremely dedicated to the AA process. At his end he was 24 years clean and sober. During those
years, most of which we spent in Grass Valley, Bill demonstrated his skills of problem solving, hard work and care taking of my parents. His talents of “talking story” and joking gained him the friendship of many. He was always singing old tunes, dancing and “steer talkin’” to groups of cattle; having them look up, give him the eye and a few would even answer. He could also spit at least 10 feet!
Bill’s approach to life was action speaks louder than words.
1. Give more than you get. He was generous on the street when he had nothing.
2. If someone’s taking advantage of you, hit the road. It won’t get any better.
3. Love those who love you back.
4. Clean up after yourself.
5. Don’t look up till you finish “picking your row of cotton”.
6. Do a better job at whatever you’re doing than is expected.
7. Don’t spend more than you have.
8. If something needs to be done attend to it immediately, no putting it off.
Three years of cancer and treatments had weakened Bill to living his life lying on his back and receiving his food “organic and homemade” through a tube in his gut. On October 28th Hospice got involved. Bill asked for the “death pill,” and was told that Catholic-backed Dignity Health prevent the dispensation of said pill in our area. Further stating: The only way for him to die in an “acceptable manner” was to stop being tube-fed. So without another option and in compliance, he went for 30 days with no feedings, just water, followed by 8 days more with no water.
His going was not easy. During those last days he refused the prescription drugs so widely dispensed for easing the finality, out of conviction and honor to his sobriety.
Bill bought the farm December 4th at 1:45 p.m.
He left behind a loving, productive, generous, hard-working family of brothers Jim, Sam, Larry, their wives, & children, along with his sister Malia, his children from his first marriage Tony, Kathy, Tammy, Nichole, & Bill Jr., and those from his last Marina and Paloma.
Bill expressed his gratitude and fondness for all the nurses and technicians who poked, needled and joked with him, as well as Cancer Thrift who saved his ass by funding the unexpected, and to Doctors Carpenter and Hill.
Bills final request was in the form of a song from Honky Tonk attitude.
“Well I ain’t afraid of dying,
It’s the thought of being dead.
I want to go on being me,
Once my eulogies been read.
Don’t spread my ashes out to sea,
Don’t lay me down to rest.
You can put my mind at ease,
If you fill my last request.
Prop Me Up Beside the Jukebox if
— Aloha and Mahalo —
With love, respect and appreciation,
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