The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Life!

February 23, 2014

Walker creates BAF fund for students

Claude W. Walker Jr. certainly represents what newsman Tom Brokaw identified as our country’s “Greatest Generation.”

The son of Claude Walker Sr., and Grace Mae Walker, he was born in Metalton near Eccles. Known by his friends as Junior, he left school early to serve in the Citizens Conservation Corps and then returned home prior to his senior year at Trap Hill High School. He graduated in 1942 and joined the United States Army.

Walker’s life is marked by service to his family, friends, neighbors and country.

He recently made a significant unsolicited donation to the Beckley Area Foundation which has established the Claude W. Walker Jr. Family Scholarship Fund. This will be managed as a sub-fund of the Trap Hill Alumni Association pooled endowment at BAF. The donor was able to take advantage of state tax credits available through the Neighborhood Investment Program.

Research performed by members of the Trap Hill Alumni Association indicated that several dozen young men received “Graduated in Service” or “Ex-Servicemen’s Equivalent Certificates” from Trap Hill following their enlistment during World War II.

Walker received his basic training at Fort Riley, Kan. He went to Templestowe, Australia, and then moved into military action in the Pacific Theatre. He arrived at Port Moresby, New Guinea, in December 1943, and was engaged in action in the Admiralty Islands, north of New Guinea through October 1944. He continued his active participation in the conflicts at Leyte Island, Luzon Island and the city of Manila.

Sgt. Walker was a member of the Army’s First Calvary Division that received direct orders from Gen. Douglas MacArthur to fight their way to Manila and free internees at the University of Santo Tomas.

As the war was coming to an end, there was concern that the doctors, nurses, military personnel and dependents who had been held prisoner there for four years would be killed by their captors. Walker’s unit started the mission with 220 soldiers, but only half survived; they successfully liberated 3,700 Americans and other internees. They gave the emaciated prisoners all the food they had.

As did numerous other men of his generation, Walker continued to serve on the front lines during World War II until the conflict ended. He then served as a guard in Tokyo, Japan.

Upon his return to civilian life, he married Marie H. Sheppard, a graduate of Glen Rogers High School. They had one child, Charles C. Walker II, who was killed in an automobile accident in Richmond, Va., in 1984. Mr. and Mrs. Walker were married for 65 years prior to her death.

Walker worked for the United States Postal Service for 34 years, 9 months and 5 days; this included serving as postmaster in Fairdale. Following his retirement from the postal service, he worked four years at Kroger.

A man committed to service, he has been active in the Trap Hill Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 11307 and the Trap Hill Alumni Association for many years. In September 1999, he was awarded the Bronze Star, before his peers at the VFW post, for his meritorious service in the Asian-Pacific Theater Operation.

The Trap Hill alumni group established a fund at the Beckley Area Foundation in 1998 to provide income for scholarship assistance to Liberty High School students. Active in fundraising efforts and administrative oversight of for this charitable project, Walker decided to create a sub-fund bearing his family name.

When asked why he decided to donate funds to endow this scholarship, he responded: “I feel scholarships will help many people because, in the end, they will benefit and strengthen not only the individual recipients, but also our community, our state and our country.”

Additional donations in any amount may be added to this scholarship fund. Send checks made out to BAF-Walker Family Scholarship Fund and mail to Beckley Area Foundation, 129 Main St., Suite 203, Beckley, WV  25801. Call 304-253-3806 or e-mail susan@bafwv.org for additional information.

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