Obituary for Ray Walker
Ray S. Walker, 105, a lifelong resident of Bigler died at his home on June 9, 2017.
Born March 13, 1912 at Bigler, he was the second child and oldest son of the three children of Gertrude Elizabeth (Confer) and Chester Arthur Walker.
Ray will be remembered fondly by his family for his zest for life, spirit of optimism, business acumen, entertaining storytelling, homespun philosophy, commitment to philanthropy, and total devotion to his family.
A true Renaissance man, he loved music, art, gardening, reading, travel and outdoor sports. As a youth, he was trained as a classical Violinist at the Susquehanna College of Music in Clearfield. An affinity for music resulted in his being selected as the first drum major of the Clearfield High School Marching Band in 1928. However, the crowning accomplishment as a violinist was earning the position of concert maestro of the Penn State Philharmonic Orchestra in 1933.
Following graduation from Penn State in 1935, Ray returned home to the village of Bigler and founded the Bradford Coal Company. In the early years, he operated the company from the dining room of his father’s home and was handicapped by the fact that Bigler had only two multi-party phone lines available for the entire village. However, during his 50 years at the helm of the company he earned a reputation as an innovator, and as a visionary. Bradford Coal Company was the first coal company to load a unit coal train in motion on the Pennsylvania Railroad: Today, all coal shipped by rail moves in unit trains. He also arranged the first blasting of overburden in surface mining using ammonium nitrate in place of dynamite: This drastically changed the economics of surface mining. He constructed a large centralized coal preparation plant at Bigler which allowed Bradford Coal to ship high grade metallurgical coal used in making coking coal to steel mills worldwide. At its peak, the Bradford Group employed 700 people and was one of the largest coal companies in the state.
In March 1940, he married Louise Saupp of Houtzdale, and for the next 66 years she was his loyal life partner. Together, they formed an incredible bond based on love and mutual respect. They were truly each other’s best friend, and worked together to build a business, raise a family, see the world and create a shared vision for how to make the world better for others. Following their marriage, they purchased a home and 10 acres in Bigler. Over the years, what was once a dumping ground for the local brick factory was transformed into the Walker Gardens. The Gardens became a center for activity and each year were open to the public for tours which helped local charities raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for civic projects and community endeavors.
Together, Ray and Louise also founded a number of civic and youth activities including Boy and Girl Scouts, Little League Baseball, the Bigler Playground and the Bigler YMCA. They also organized The Walker Family Foundation which funded numerous college scholarships for area youth and supported local charities.
In recognition of his outstanding work for charity, in 2002 he received the Distinguished Citizen of The Commonwealth Award from The Pennsylvania Society.
As part of this zest for life, Ray loved to travel and experience the unknown. He believed active travel to be the best form of education. Along with his travel partner Louise, he visited over 50 countries and all the continents including Antarctica. Their preferred method of travel was by train and included Transcontinental journeys on The Orient Express, The Oriental Express, The Canadian National, the California Zephyr, The Blue Train of South Africa and the granddaddy of them all, the Trans-Siberian Railroad which in 1968 took them on a 5,700-mile rail adventure across Russia. In his final adventure, Ray traveled by Land Rover from Islamabad, Pakistan over the Himalayas into China and across the Gobi Desert from West to East deep into China. His favorite trip, however, was to London in 1953 where he and Louise represented the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania at the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II of England. During that visit, they had the honor of meeting Winston Churchill.
He loved spending winters in Pennsylvania where he enjoyed outdoor winter activities. To him, the fun started with the first snowfall. He was an excellent ice skater and accomplished downhill skier. On his 95th birthday, he became the oldest person to downhill ski on the slopes of Holiday Valley at Ellicottville, NY. He also loved to snowmobile and was in his glory plowing through snowdrifts at 60 plus MPH. He called it invigorating.
However, no matter how long the journey, how great the adventure or how invigorating the ride, his favorite part was returning home to his family to share another round of stories. He delighted in family meals together and relished time spent with grandchildren and great grandchildren. Whether it was attending a dance recital, Little League game, hockey match or spelling bee, he rarely missed an activity of his offspring.
He was a 1931 graduate of Clearfield Area High School and a 1935 graduate of the Pennsylvania State College which later became the Pennsylvania State University.
Ray is survived by two sons, Jim and his wife Carol of Bigler, Alan and his wife Judy of Clearfield and a daughter, Susan Kriner and her husband Bill of Clearfield.
Also surviving are ten grandchildren and 21 great grandchildren. Jaimy Buck and husband Bill of Woodland, and their children Jeremy and wife Heather and Cody. Jimmy Walker and his wife Sharyn of Liberty, NC, Jason Walker and his wife Tammy of Bigler, and their children, Carlee, Cade, Cayleigh and Carsyn, Jarrett Walker and wife Mindy of Rockton and their children Brandon, Lauren and Ayden, Jabe Walker and his wife Veronica of Bigler and their children Raelyn and Nicholas, Jon Walker and wife Misty of Bigler and their children Colten, Payton and Preston. Derek Walker and his wife Stephanie of Bigler and their children Wynston and Broderick, Courtney Spencer and her husband Andy of Clearfield and their children Cole, Kardon, and Kendell. Barb Siggins and her husband John of State College and their children Zachary and wife Sandra and Thomas and Lucas Kriner and his wife Katie of Barto, PA. He is also survived by two great great grandchildren; Jensen and Lydia Buck.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Louise, a daughter, Ann Macko of State College and a granddaughter, Joan Caren Walker of Bigler, his parents and two sisters, Betty Skelton of State College and Marjorie Hall of Harrisburg. He was the last surviving member of his family of his generation.
Funeral Services will be held at The First Presbyterian Church, Clearfield on at Saturday at 11 AM. Interment will be in the Crown Crest Memorial Park, Hyde.
Friends will be received at The First Presbyterian Church, Clearfield on Thursday from 2-4 and 6-8 PM, on Friday 2-4, 6-8 PM and on Saturday from 10-11 AM.
The family suggests that memorial contributions be made to The Bigler Y.M.C.A., 61 Walker Road, Bigler, PA 16825 or the Bucktail Council, Boy Scouts of America, 209 First Avenue, DuBois, PA 15801.
The Kevin A. Beardsley Funeral Home, Clearfield is in charge of arrangements.
To leave an online condolence, visit www.beardsleyfuneralhome.com.