Ag educator and advocate Joe Walker passes away at 93

Colleen Kottke
Wisconsin State Farmer
Joe L. Walker

Joe Walker was raised on farm outside of Tower City, North Dakota during the Dust Bowl and Great Depression. Despite hardships endured in on the farm in his early life, the Waupaca man went on to leave behind a rich legacy in the classroom, 4-H program and UW Extension offices during his long life.

Walker, a resident of Waupaca, passed away on Dec. 31, 2018, at the age of 93.

Born in 1925 outside of Tower City, North Dakota, Walker was raised on a 320-acre farm that his parents Erwin and Ella Walker rented. According to his obituary, Walker faithfully rode his prized Indian pony named Pet, nine miles to the town school in Tower City and was seldom late to class.

The Dust Bowl delivered great hardship to the family's farming operation, with severe heat and drought wiping out any harvest for the Walkers in 1935 and 1936.

Looking for a fresh beginning, the family loaded up their livestock, machinery and worldly belongings into two boxcars and headed east, relocating to a farm nine miles outside of Portage, Wisconsin.

Walker graduated from Portage High School in 1943, and enlisted in the U.S. Army the year after, serving in the Philippines. He later transferred to the Air Force and fulfilled his military commitment in Japan in 1946.

Upon returning home, he worked briefly as a truck driver before enrolling at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on the G.I. Bill. He graduated in 1951 with a B.S. in Agricultural Education and went on to teach agriculture in Poynette, a few miles south of his boyhood home in Columbia County.

After leaving the classroom, Walker served as the 4-H agent in Oconto County where he met his future wife, Helen. After their marriage in 1954, the couple moved to Appleton where he found employment as the 4-H agent in Outagamie County.

Two years later, the Walkers headed to Waupaca County where he began working as a county agricultural agent. While raising his family and working a full time job, Walker managed to return to the classroom and earned his Master's degree from UW-Madison in 1965.

Walker relished his role as executive secretary of Farm Progress Days when it was held in Waupaca County in 1978.

Family members say Walker enjoyed gardening and grew vegetables which he often shared with neighbors. He also took great pride in his lawn and was perhaps happiest behind the wheel of his lawn tractor where his singing and whistling could often be heard above the noise of the motor.

He is survived by his wife of 64 years, Helen; their three children, Jenny (Jonathan) Jasper, Andover, MN, Jeff (Renee) Walker, Amherst, WI, and Kent (Julie) Walker, Brooklyn Park, MN; and six grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his infant son Craig.

A memorial service for Walker will take place at First United Methodist Church in Waupaca on Saturday, January 12, 2019 at 12:00 (Noon), with Pastor Amy Powell, officiating. Visitation will be held on Saturday, from 10 a.m.until the time of the service. In lieu of flowers, a memorial fund has been established in Joe's name.