Debbie Croft: For Mariposa man it really is a wonderful life

composed@tds.netApril 11, 2014 

DEBBIE CROFT

Frank Bancroft Walker and his son Marc are “bachin’ it,” they tell me. Their 1930s Mariposa home is cluttered, but comfortable enough for the male residents.

Marc left his job driving semis several years ago to care for his parents.

Walker says he feels like he’s 89 going on 189. As a diabetic, he often receives phone calls reminding him of medical appointments or prescription changes. He gets around by using a walker.

His wife, Isabel, died recently, but her influence is still seen in the home. The house was built in a quiet neighborhood where Frank Walker has lived for 22 years.

“I had construction experience,” he said. “So after moving in, my sons and I gave it a face-lift.”

I learned a lot about Walker on an afternoon I spent visiting with him last month.

Following an extensive education at various institutions in California and along the East Coast, Walker spent six years as a naval officer. He’s also a graduate of the Youth With a Mission missionary school.

Walker speaks fluent Spanish and Portuguese, and met his wife in Peru, where he worked in commercial fishing and boat construction. His vocational career spanned 40 years, including work as a farm chemical market developer in Latin America, tennis teacher and licensed general building contractor.

Frank and Isabel Walker had four sons and one daughter.

Upon retirement in Mariposa, he became a columnist and feature writer for the Mariposa Gazette and the Mariposa Tribune. He also volunteered with Gideons International, Mariposa’s Manna House and as a chaplain with the Mariposa County Sheriff Department, ministering to incarcerated men.

His landscape photography has won more than over 100 ribbons. And he plays the harmonica pretty well.

Recently, Walker published two books, and he has written a third that’s ready for publication. Walker’s specialty is short stories – memoirs of his life and the lives of friends and family.

In his first book, “A Key, a Padlock and Milk of Magnesia,” he writes about his father, Fred J. Walker, who was a newspaper writer, a Hearst editor and city editor for San Francisco’s largest newspaper. He occasionally brought home famous people for the family to meet.

While covering the White House and Capitol Hill as an International News Service correspondent in Washington, D.C. correspondent, Walker’s dad became a personal friend of President Calvin Coolidge.

Walker himself had an encounter with Winston Churchill at Union Station in Washington, D.C. He also met professional tennis player Bobby Riggs and Brazil’s former president, Juscelino Kubitschek – the man who initiated the building of a new capital city, Brasilia.

Isabel grew up in Paris during the German occupation. Severe food restrictions had been imposed, and without friends in the country who raised farm animals, they didn’t have any eggs. Isabel’s mom sent her daughters to a farm to buy eggs. When the farmer learned the girls spoke English, he led them to an injured American paratrooper hiding in his barn. The girls helped him escape, and he gave them his silk handkerchief. Years later it was passed to Isabel’s son Marc, who became a paratrooper.

The introduction summarizes the book, and each chapter focuses on a particular theme.

Frank Walker’s second book is “Are the Comatose Awake?”

“Yes, they are,” Walker assures his readers. A family friend suddenly grew ill and had to be hospitalized. Slipping into a coma, the doctors didn’t think she would live long. When she regained consciousness several days later, she told Isabel that she had heard Frank standing near her, praying.

Other stories in the book share Walker’s spiritual insights.

The third book doesn’t have a title yet. The stories range from dealings with cannibals on a Fiji island to one of his sons seeing an albino hummingbird.

“This book is about the unusual,” Walker says.

Life has slowed down quite a bit for Frank Walker, but he says as long as God gives him breath, he plans to spend his days sharing the stories of his life with others. His books are available at www.amazon.com.

Debbie Croft writes about life in the foothill communities. Follow her on Twitter @ghostowngal or connect by email: composed@tds.net.

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