OBITUARY

Max Edward Walker

August 19, 1934July 1, 2019
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Max Edward Walker, age 84, passed away July 1, 2019. A resident of Wichita since 1952, Max was an Air Force veteran and longtime aviation service professional, who retired from Boeing in 1998. Max was a good, proud and principled man, a loving husband, father, father-in-law, and grandfather that will be dearly missed. He is preceded in death by his mother, Helen Devine. Max is survived by his wife of 64 years, Nancy Lou Walker; son, Mark Walker; daughter, Sharon (Bob) Walker Cox; brother, Joe (Chris) Walker; sister, Elaine Kuzma; and grandchildren, Sarah and Christina Cox. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Wounded Warrior Project, P.O. Box 758517, Topeka, KS 66675. An open visitation will be from 1-5pm Thursday, July 4, 2019 at Resthaven Mortuary, 11800 W. Highway 54, Wichita, KS 67209. Max's Funeral service will be held 10:30am, Friday, July 5, 2019 at Asbury Church, 2801 W. 15th St., Wichita, KS 67203.     

  • FAMILY

  • Nancy Lou Walker, Wife
  • Mark Walker, Son
  • Sharon (Bob) Walker-Cox, Daughter
  • Joe (Chris) Walker, Brother
  • Elaine Kuzma, Sister
  • Sarah Cox, Grandchild
  • Christina Cox, Grandchild
  • PALLBEARERS

  • Don Brittain, Casket Bearer
  • Sarah Cox, Casket Bearer
  • Jon Woods, Casket Bearer
  • Mary Rohleder, Casket Bearer
  • Tim Blaylock, Casket Bearer
  • Larry McCreight, Casket Bearer
  • Robert Harrison, Honorary Casket Bearer
  • Christina Cox, Honorary Casket Bearer
  • Joe Walker, Honorary Casket Bearer
  • DONATIONS

  • Wounded Warrior Project

Services

  • Open Viewing Thursday, July 4, 2019
  • Funeral Service Friday, July 5, 2019

Memories

Max Edward Walker

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Biography

Max’s story is one of overcoming early life challenges to successfully make his own way in the world and leave a mark on it. He fell in love with a cute young Wichita girl -- Nancy. Together they raised and loved a family. With Nancy’s support, Max built a successful career that took him places and exposed him to a world he probably could not have dreamed of as a child.

None of these accomplishments were preordained. Max was born in North Carolina on August 19, 1934, the first child of Helen Devine. His mother was hard-pressed to provide for Max and his younger siblings, brother Joe and sister Elaine. Their father was an alcoholic, abusive to his wife and children alike. He would eventually disown his children. Helen was an adherent of Pentecostal faith teachings, which meant invoking hard rules and harsh punishment.
As the oldest child, Max was responsible for looking after Joe and Elaine, who was seven years younger, while their mother worked. It was a lot of responsibility to put on a boy’s shoulders. But young Max was already showing strength and resilience. At one point, Max and his brother grabbed tools and interceded to protect their mother from assault.

By age 16, Max had enough of that life. With his mother’s permission, he dropped out of school, forged a fake birth certificate to indicate he was 18, and enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. It was an early indication of his resourcefulness and creativity. Nancy says the forged birth certificate was well done, a sign of the artistic talents Max would later cultivate.

After basic training, in 1952 the Air Force assigned Max to McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, and a career as an aircraft mechanic. Look at the pictures from then, and you see a skinny, but good looking young guy – a boy really – with a radiant smile.

At that time, located near what is now the interchange of Hillside and Kellogg, was a store called Cut Rate Drugs that operated a lunch counter and soda fountain. Young servicemen from McConnell, bored, lonely, and short on cash, would hang out and drink coffee. The girls running the lunch counter began serving the hungry guys food that would otherwise be thrown at the end of the day.
One of those girls was a flirtatious 14-year-old, Nancy Bishop. There was a spark between her and Max, then 17, and they began dating. Within three or four months, Nancy says she knew there was something special about their relationship. Her father and mother, learning his childhood travails, approved of Max and welcomed him into their home.

On June 26, 1955, Max and Nancy, then 20 and 17, were married and set out on their 64-year journey together. Shortly after that Max was discharged from the Air Force after four years of active duty and took a job with the Cessna Aircraft Co. Max and Nancy’s first child, daughter Sharon, arrived before their first anniversary. Son Mark came along a couple of years later.

In 1960 Max was hired by the Beech Aircraft Corp. as a tech rep, a position that provided a decent living, professional growth, travel, and adventure. Early on, Max was assigned to work on a military contract in Japan. The whole family moved for what turned out to be a six-month stay. Max excelled at the job and earned the respect of the military leadership for getting work done right and keeping aircraft flying. The Japanese called Max “Dean Martin,” saying he looked like the famous American entertainer.

Max’s career path had several stops: Cessna to Beech, to Boeing briefly, back to Beech, and then back to Boeing again. He retired from Boeing in 1998. He had work assignments in 14 countries. In 1979, when the revolution launched by Ayatollah Khomeini engulfed Iran and Americans were being held hostage, Max coordinated getting three of his Beech employees and a spouse out of the country. He made one trip into Iran to repair and retrieve a stranded airplane, working at gunpoint.

Max’s career success, Nancy says, was due in large part to his resourcefulness and creativity. Whatever the circumstances and challenges, he could come up with a solution. Max could work with people, especially customers. He had an outgoing personality and could walk in and light up a room.
Probably due to his own difficult childhood, Max was a deeply involved and caring parent. He could be strict and demanding, but also played hard. Mark recalls his father, ever the creative and mechanical type, helping build a soapbox derby-like cart so he could compete in the neighborhood drag races rolling down a slight west Wichita hill.

“He called Sharon his little Punkin,” Nancy recalls. Serving in the Air Force reserve, Max often had duty on weekends but would call home and check on “his little Punkin.”

The family took extended vacations around the country. Max wanted them to see what the larger world had to offer. There were misadventures, like the time Max unhitched the family camper then ran after it as it rolled down a hill.

Max passed on core values, like doing a job right and frugality. Sharon tells the story that as a young adult when her home air conditioning was broken, Max and Nancy gave her an electric box fan, which had been a wedding gift to them. Sometime later she decided the old fan had outlived its usefulness and tossed it in the garbage cart. Max showed up at the house, saw the fan, retrieved it, and read Sharon the riot act. That fan is operating in the living room of the Walker’s house as we sit here.

Max also tried to closely supervise his children’s dating, much to their chagrin. One time a blind date showed up at the Walker house to take Sharon out. Max demanded to see the poor guy’s driver’s license to make sure he was who he said he was.

Max also took great pride in supporting his children in other ways. If something needed repairing, or they needed technical guidance, they turned to him. It was expected. Sharon says the first time she allowed a boyfriend to change the oil in her car, Max threw a fit. “He considered that his job.”