Ben Walker died at home in Bellevue on June 18, 2013, after a long illness. Ben was born June 10, 1926, in Salem, Mass. He spent his childhood in Marblehead, Mass., with his parents, Samuel and Margaret, his sister “Skip” and his twin sister “Bebe.” Ben enrolled at the Riverside Military Academy in Georgia, where he rose to the position of drill leader. He frequently stated that he was the only one who was always out of step!
After two years in the U.S. Navy (1944-1946), during which time he traveled halfway around the world to China, Ben attended the New England School of Art. He tried his hand at commercial advertising after graduating, but the West was calling. His sister Bebe had traveled to Idaho and was employed by the Sun Valley Co. She sent back such glowing reports of the area and the skiing that Ben packed up his gear and headed west, arriving in Sun Valley for the
1950 ski season. On the way to Idaho, he spent a year working on a dude ranch in Jackson, Wyoming, where he began his lifelong love of the snow-capped mountain peaks.
When he arrived in Sun Valley, Ben taught skiing for the Sun Valley Ski School and continued to teach off and on until 1977. He was well-liked by his students on Dollar Mountain, and was fondly referred to as “Gentle Ben.”
One of Ben’s most poignant memories of his early days in Sun Valley was of being a roommate and good friend to Louis Stur, and, from him, learning to climb mountains. He made three ascents of the Grand Teton with Louis and John Koppes.
In 1954, Ben met Marilyn Finley one afternoon apres ski, in the Alpine Saloon in Ketchum. Marilyn was employed as a nurse at the Sun Valley Hospital at the time. Their first date was a visit to the Craters of the Moon. Ben and Marilyn were married in Hailey in 1955. Together, they opened The Tub Laundromat in Ketchum in 1956 and operated it for about 25 years with the help of Virgie Deckard. Ben was a dedicated member of the Ketchum/Sun Valley Rotary Club and was presented with the Paul Harris Award of Merit for “Service Above Self” for his service as program chairman for over a quarter of a century.
Ben’s favorite hobby was building and flying radio-controlled model aircraft, especially radio-controlled gliders. Many afternoons he could be seen on Galena Pass and other slopes sailing his home-built gliders. Other R/C enthusiasts shared Ben’s passion and the Wood River R/C Club was founded.
After many happy, busy years in the upper valley, Ben and his family moved to Bellevue where they lived on a 10-acre ranch known as the Flying W. Ben kept busy mowing, haying, moving irrigation lines, flying R/C models, skiing, enjoying coffee klatches at Jesse’s, and always being a helpful husband, loving father and good friend to many in the Wood River Val1ey.
Ben leaves behind his wife and partner of 58 years, Marilyn; son, Benjamin Walker Jr.; daughter, Lani Burns; and granddaughter, Disney.
Always a gentleman with a good sense of humor, one of Ben’s last statements was, “I know the end is near, but this waiting around is killing me!”
In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts to Hospice of the Wood River Valley are most welcome; they provide an excellent, privately funded service to our community. In honor of Ben’s wishes, there will be no services.
Cremation is being handled by the Wood River Chapel. Further details can be seen at www.woodriverchapel.com.