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Elizabethtown Mayor Tim Walker may have represented Elizabethtown, but his sudden death Friday from a massive heart attack left friends from around the county and state in a shaken state of mourning.
Gov. Steve Beshear asked for a moment of silence Friday for Walker during the rededication of the General George Patton Museum of Leadership at Fort Knox and officials from all walks of government offered condolences, shed tears and remembered Walker as a catalyst for good.
“I’ve lost a great friend, and Elizabethtown has lost a great leader in Tim Walker,” Beshear said, who offered his prayers to the family.
Among other things, Beshear had worked with Walker in areas of economic development, particularly related to changes caused by Base Realignment and Closure. They also crossed paths in India during separate economic development trips to promote the city and state.
Radcliff Mayor J.J. Duvall was overcome with emotion as he described his friendship with Walker, which bloomed during their concurrent mayoral campaigns in 2010.
Duvall grieved alongside Walker’s family at Hardin Memorial Hospital on Friday morning and said he was devastated by the sudden departure of a man with whom he spoke on a near daily basis and often ate lunch with. They routinely bounced ideas off one another in their ongoing efforts to build cooperation and partnerships between the county’s two largest cities. They also offered a united front in the fight against a state-planned median consolidation on U.S. 31W they believed would hurt local businesses.
“We just shared a unique bond,” he said. “It didn’t take us long to make friends.”
The two men were drawn to each other after they took office because they shared a stressful job few people understand, Duvall said. It often brings with it long hours in the office and sleepless nights, but Duvall said he had a compatriot in Walker with whom he could share stories and discuss the mutual guilt they carried when they went home and felt like they had let residents of their cities down.
“He’ll be a hard person to replace,” Duvall said.
Blake Proffitt took over as mayor of Vine Grove at the same time Duvall and Walker assumed leadership in their cities and shared in this bond. All three men were younger than the mayors they replaced, and Proffitt said he believed the trio brought a new energy and spirit of cooperation into the county not seen in years.
“I don’t think I’ve ever met a more caring person,” Proffitt said of Walker. “Every time he saw me, he asked how things are going and if he could do anything to help me.”
Proffitt said Walker was “the real deal” and the “total package” in his approach to governance. The kindness and generosity he exhibited was sincere, he said, and it proved his desire was not to prop himself up but put others first in his promotion of Elizabethtown, Hardin County and Kentucky. Proffitt said he will “miss him drastically.”
“He was for what was right and good,” he said.
Fort Knox Garrison Commander Col. Bruce Jenkins worked with Walker to create firm relationships outside the post gates.
“Tim Walker was a very loved man in the community,” he said.
Having spoken with him just a day before his death, Jenkins recalled the mayor telling him he felt better than he had his whole life.
“His legacy will surely continue,” Jenkins said.
U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie, R-Bowling Green, also offered his condolences.
“Tim and I had a great working relationship that centered on putting the needs of the people of Elizabethtown first,” Guthrie said in a statement. “Elizabethtown is certainly feeling a loss today.”
Hardin Judge-Executive Harry Berry said Walker was a one-of-a-kind figure who was a friend to all he met. Berry said there were few work days that passed when he did not communicate with Walker, serving together on several local boards and committees.
Berrysaid his dedication to downtown revitalization was monumental and has left large shoes behind to be filled. Likewise, Walker’s sense of humor is one of the many traits he will miss.
“We’ll all work hard to carry on,” Berry said. “He wouldn’t want or expect anything different.”
Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or firstname.lastname@example.org Features writer Robert Villanueva contributed to this report.