Elder William R. Walker was born May 25, 1944, to J. Harris and Beth Russell Walker. He was raised in Raymond, Alberta, Canada. Like Nephi, he was born "of goodly parents." As a young boy in the small Latter-day Saint community of Raymond, Alberta, Canada, William Walker often visited the nearby home of his grandparents. There, hanging on the wall, was a picture of the First Presidency.
I can still remember that image. It had a profound influence on me during those early years. I grew up loving the leaders of the Church. Both Elder and Sister Walker say they were blessed to grow up in strong LDS families. The Canadian farm town of Raymond was home for Elder Walker, where his father was a physician. Sister Walker grew up in Provo, Utah.
Their respective fathers had known each other while attending Brigham Young University (J. Harris Walker was on BYU's track team, while Sister Walker's father, Harold Earl Van Wagenen, was a collegiate swimmer.) But young William and Vicki did not meet until they were both members of the same BYU student ward following Elder Walker's missionary service in Japan. Soon they were dating.
Sister Walker remembers thinking her young suitor was too good to be true. He was friendly, modest, handsome, serious about living gospel principles and "a great dancer."
Six months after meeting, the two were married in the Salt Lake Temple. They would became the parents of five children.
Elder Walker soon graduated from BYU (Sister Walker had finished a few years earlier) and took his international relations degree to Montreal to train to be a stock broker. The Walkers would later call Vancouver, Canada; Illinois; Georgia; and northern California home while Elder Walker developed his business career. Finally, the Walkers decided to settle in Salt Lake City. After much prayer, the family decided Utah would be their permanent home.
Those long-term living plans took a three-year detour in 1990 when Elder Walker was called to preside over the Japan Tokyo South Mission. His return to the Asian mission field gave the Walkers a chance to grow closer together while influencing the lives of hundreds of young missionaries and their investigators. After their many business-related moves and full-time missionary service, Elder Walker says he's grown to appreciate his wife's love, grit and stamina. It reflects her pioneer heritage, he adds.
"She was the best mission mom in the world and she's the best grandma in the world but I'm not biased," he said, laughing.
Elder William R. Walker and his family learned their way around moving boxes and packaging tape. Business opportunities and job transfers meant the Walkers spent a good chunk of their professional lives either recovering from or preparing for another business move.
It was perhaps not the ideal life for every LDS family but for them, it was a blessing. Friends and mailing addresses could change, but the Walker parents and children learned they were there for each other. Love and loyalty were constants.
"When we moved to a different place. . . it made us closer," said Elder Walker.
After their many business moves and his service in Japan, the Walkers were back home in the states, when Elder Walker, 57, serving as president of the Sandy Utah Cottonwood Creek Stake, was called to the Second Quorum of the Seventy. At the time of his call, he was a member of the board of directors and chairman of the investment committee for Beneficial Life Insurance Company.
A self-proclaimed "mad gardener," Elder Walker relaxes in his backyard tending to his flowers and fruit trees. His neighbors are often the beneficiaries of his green thumb.
"I love to go out, pull weeds, dig in the dirt and plant and nurture my fruit trees," he said.
He also found an affinity for family history research and fills his library with the biographies and writings of LDS prophets and Church leaders.