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A year later, Walker's shadow remains large

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Friends, family, colleagues reflect on time without Tim

By Marty Finley

Saturday marks the one-year anniversary of Elizabethtown Mayor Tim Walker’s shocking death, but the absence has not blunted his impact on the city he loved. His legacy as a humble leader has only grown during the past 12 months.

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For his family, friends and colleagues, Walker’s mark on the community where he spent his 54 years is not defined or strengthened by his death. Rather, the life he lived and the love he gave simply could be appreciated more once he was no longer here to share it.

“He’s still making headlines,” said Pritchard Community Center Manager Pat Cardin, alluding to memorials christened in Walker’s honor and the number of ongoing projects Walker’s hands touched.

Cardin attended school with Walker’s older sister, Pat, and remembered him riding his bicycle to watch Cardin’s band practice.

Cardin and his wife became close with Walker and his widow, Teresa, taking care of one another’s dogs while on vacations.

Cardin described Walker as a “workaholic” who shouldered the stresses of being mayor and the long hours it can demand with his usual reserved patience — never complaining or seeing a need to slow down, even when others suggested it.

“He only had one gear,” Cardin said.

Cardin remembers sending Walker an email around 10 the night before his death, when the mayor succumbed to a massive heart attack brought on by a heart disease he was unaware existed.

Walker always would respond to a call or email, but it sometimes came the following day because of his heavy schedule. That particular night, Tim responded in less than two hours, sending a late-night response to Cardin’s report on activities at the center.

The next morning, Cardin received a phone call informing him Walker died. He took the news as a poor attempt at a jest.

“That’s not even a funny joke,” Cardin responded. The caller burst into tears.

A feeling of emptiness crept over Cardin, the same sense that still embodies the space of Teresa Walker, who was married to Tim for nearly 20 years and partnered with him to join two families.

There’s not a piece of brick or fiber in the city that does not remind Teresa of her husband. The debilitating sadness kept her at home for months after his death, guarded and lost.

Teresa said the hardest part of losing Tim was watching the agonizing effects it had on their children and grandchildren, yet being unable to comfort them.

“If it wasn’t for my grandchildren, I’d probably move out of Elizabethtown,” Teresa said Thursday. “But I know that would be a big regret” because the pain will lessen in time when the weight of the memories are not so heavy.

“It will be something we cherish forever,” she said of their time with Walker.

Brandon Jones, Tim’s stepson, called him father and said the past year has been awful for his family.

He is content in the knowledge that Walker died doing what he loved and lived life as he wanted. He wouldn’t have wanted it any other way, Jones contended.

“I feel like I got closure a lot quicker knowing the kind of man he was and knowing people had so much respect for him,” Jones said.

The tragedy of losing a father has only brought the family closer, he said.

Edna Berger was appointed to fill Walker’s unexpired term by Eliza­bethtown City Council and is considering a run for the office in November.

She quickly learned the grueling pace of the job and admits she never could replace Walker, nor would she try. The long hours she has turned in showed her how much his family had to share him.

“We really took advantage of his goodness,” Berger said. “He gave his all to this city. His family literally gave him up to this city.”

Councilman Tony Bishop said he thinks about Walker often and sees his handiwork around the city.

A stop sign at Dolphin Drive and Mary T. Meagher Drive, for example, is one he pushed for.

“That’s the Tim stop sign,” Bishop said. “It’s just little things” that remind me of him.

Mayor J.J. Duvall took office in Radcliff at the same time Walker did in Elizabethtown. Together with Vine Grove Mayor Blake Proffitt, they ushered in a wave of younger mayors.

“It felt like we needed to stick together and work together,” Duvall said of the trio.

He naturally drifted toward Walker because he understood better than anyone locally the pressures he was under to perform in a city’s best interests.

Walker advised Duvall to stand by his beliefs and make decisions he would not later regret — an approach Duvall said he has tried to model.

“It was not just a job to him,” Duvall said.

Walker is remembered as much for his Christian faith and commitment to First Christian Church. Ministers Stuart Jones and Doug Mitchell said Walker relentlessly invited people to attend church and made others feel welcome.

On Sundays, Jones said, he was not eager to rush out the door and avoid the clamor of fellow churchgoers who may want to bend his ear about an issue in town. In contrast, the men said Walker was willing to listen and eager to help.

“He was always Tim,” Mitchell said. “Nothing really rattled him or shook him.”

Walker also owned and operated Plaza Lube and manager Chris Tharpe said it is hard to escape his presence. Choking up, Tharpe said he still stumbles upon Walker’s signature on documents around the office and occasionally receives a call regarding Tim. Quickly, the memories start developing in his mind.

“He wasn’t a boss per se,” Tharpe said. “He was more like a father figure.”

Marty Finley can be reached at 270-505-1762 or mfinley@thenewsenterprise.com.