John Calvin “Buddy” Walker

August 28, 1938 - February 23, 2024

08/28/1938 - 02/23/2024

JOHN CALVIN RAY WALKER, known to friends and family as “Buddy,” was born August 28, 1938 in Maple Plain, Minnesota. John Walker died February 23, 2024 at the age of eighty five (85) years old, in Henderson County, North Carolina where he resided in Mills River. Mr. Walker is preceded in death by his parents, John Holbrook Walker and Esther Levina (Blake) Walker who lived in Bemidji, MN. Buddy leaves behind his wife of thirty-six years, Louise Marie Walker, one older sister Jean Cummings of Minnesota, and four children, Gary Walker, Tim Walker, Ronald Walker, and Karen Hutton, all from his former spouse, deceased, Joanne (Smith) Walker, along with twelve (12) grandchildren and ten (10) great grandchildren. Buddy also leaves behind four step-children, John Zill, Kenneth Zill, Crystal Austin, and Victor Zill, along with associated twelve 12 grandchildren and four (4) great-grandchildren.

John Walker grew up in White Bear Lake, Minnesota, where he started a career in construction. At 17, he would travel to Orlando, FL in the winters to find work during the winter months, where he met Joanne Smith, who was attending Forest Lake Academy. After she graduated from Academy, they married and settled in Forest City just a few blocks from the school. He transitioned his career into the tree business while in Florida and became well known as an expert tree surgeon. Living in Florida his family expanded with all his children born there. In 1973, his Minnesota roots pulled him back home and he moved up north to Bemidji. John moved his family to Morgan, MN in 1975 when he decided to take over a truck farm from his Uncle Seth Walker in addition to his tree work.

John Walker was instrumental in the management of Dutch Elm Disease that impacted thousands of trees in Southern Minnesota in the 70’s. He worked for several years removing dead and dying trees in many of Minnesota’s small farming communities. He then dedicated his work to replenishing these towns with Maple trees and the thousands of trees that he planted are standing tall in Minnesota today as a monument to his hard work and passion.

John Walker would often draw a crowd of people to watch him as he would be cutting down trees in very difficult locations, swinging by rope to multiple trees. Starting a job for one customer would normally lead to surrounding neighbors hiring him to cut out dangerous trees. Clearing trees from lots, cutting trees hanging over houses and power lines, planting trees for cities and residents, constructing ponds and landscaping, crafting beautiful clocks, and building houses as a young man, Buddy was accomplished at whatever task he undertook. Traveling the country planting trees in places such as Florida and Tennessee, if needing some extra funds, he would just find a dead tree, and negotiate with the homeowner to cut the tree out. Rope, saddle, spurs, and a couple chainsaws were able to fit in the trunk of his car or truck and there was always a tree needing to be cut down.

As a five year-old child, Buddy fell down a flight of basement steps and split his head open. From that point until his death, he often experienced severe headaches making work and life in general difficult.

John Walker met Louise Marie (Green) Zill in Fletcher, NC during a wild edible plant excursion organized by the Hendersonville Seventh-day Adventist Church, and on April 25, 1988 in Newport, TN they were married and took up residence in Fletcher, NC. Shortly after marriage, Buddy and Louise along with children Crystal and Victor moved to Minnesota where Buddy could be closer to his ailing mother living in Bemidji. Buddy and Louise lived in several locations in Minnesota including Brainard, Wadena, and Staples and then around the year 1992 following the death of his mother, Buddy and Louise along with child Victor moved to Calhoun GA. In 1995 Buddy and Louise along with Victor moved to Mills River, NC where they resided with Louise’s mother Bernice Stevens and Louise’s sister Doris and Calvin (no relation). In April of 2016 the Mills River house burned to the ground, and a new home was constructed where Buddy continued to live until his death.

Buddy loved his family and loved to talk about what different children were doing and enjoyed their visits. A man who loved to laugh, he would often repeat certain favorite stories of planting trees or some crazy tree service job he had. From a huge oak tree that a homeowner built a partition around and then somehow was puzzled the tree could not live without water, to a vehicle owner scratching his head wondering where his car was, and why his parked location was covered with a huge pile a brush, not realizing Buddy picked up and moved the vehicle a long ways away, Buddy always had a story to tell. He will be greatly missed by his friends and family. Buddy was a member of the Mills River Seventh-day Adventist Church and is now asleep in Jesus, awaiting His soon return.

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Rita Engen
1 month ago

Lovely tribute. I remeber him as a gentle, friendly man. Many condolences to Louise and all his family.

Don Starkey
1 month ago

We wish to extend our sympathies to the family of John (Buddy) Walker, my cousin.