Robert Murray Walker, MD
Robert Murray Walker, MD died on Saturday, May 4, at 79 years of age. He and his wife, Phyllis Jean (Munger) Walker resided together at Greenwood Village South in Greenwood, Ind.
Robert was born to William Holiday (Holly) Walker and Mary Godwin Walker in Savannah on Aug. 11, 1933. He was the first of four siblings: Robert, David, Barbara (now Barbara Davis), and James (Jimmy). The stories of his childhood are too numerous and varied to tell. He grew up “poorly” but “went off and made doctor.” He attended Walker Academy, named for his great-great-grandfather, Creed Walker. He then attended Central High School.
After high school, he took out a loan against his cow to attend Freed-Hardeman College in Henderson, Tenn. From there, he moved to Indiana to find work. He worked several jobs as he slowly made his way through college attending Indiana University and Butler University. His jobs included TV antenna installation and repair, selling pots and pans, door-to-door sales for Encyclopedia Americana, and assembly line work at Studebaker.
During his college years, he met Phyllis Jean Munger from Des Moines, Iowa. They were joined in marriage on Feb. 25, 1956. Nine months later, Phillip Murray Walker was born. Fifteen months after Phillip, Gregory Thomas Walker was born on their second anniversary. Robert was working at Central State Hospital as an EEG technician. It was during those years he found his inspiration to become a physician.
During medical school, Robert developed a psychological testing apparatus for the school. He graduated from Indiana University School of Medicine in 1965. Following graduation, he started his internship at Methodist Hospital, Indianapolis, Ind. In Sept. 1965, John Matthew Walker was born.
During the challenging years of medical school and internship, Robert and Phyllis were on a spiritual journey as well. Growing closer to each other and closer to Christ, they had committed themselves to mission work with a dream of going to Burma. With a military takeover in 1962, those plans changed. Their dashed hopes of ministering in Burma were reborn when Dr. Dennis Pruett introduced the idea of going to Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) to work for Central Africa Mission running a hospital and a few clinics. Eight couples from their Sunday morning class at Trader’s Point Christian Church became foreign missionaries.
After completing his internship, Robert took his young family to Rhodesia. They thrived in Chiredzi, Rhodesia for three years as Robert worked tirelessly as a young physician for a completely underserved population. In addition to medical missions, he ran an experimental pond, where he used ducks to eliminate bilharzia or schistosomiasis, an infectious disease that attacks the urinary system and is the world’s leading cause of bladder cancer.
When they returned to the United States, Robert spent one year working in the emergency department at Home Hospital in West Lafayette. Then he saw the light and moved his family out of the darkness and into IU country. When Robert became the first full-time emergency physician at Bloomington Hospital in 1971, he planted his roots in Ellettsville where he and Phyllis raised their sons and sent them to IU to become physicians. Ellettsville Christian Church was a second home to Robert and Phyllis for over 30 years. Robert taught classes and was an elder for a few years. For many years, Robert was the in-name-only secretary for the Central Africa Mission. Phyllis did all the work.
In the country, Robert loved his 60 acres. He raised everything: cows, chickens, ducks, horses (including draft horses), mules, donkeys, burros, sheep, goats and geese. He loved to farm with horses and mules. It was a way to reminisce and prepare for foreign invasion at the same time. One year he stockpiled potatoes. He and his sons planted 200 pounds of potatoes and harvested over a ton. Anyone who came to the door for any reason left with a sack of potatoes.
Robert not only gave away potatoes, he was generous to a fault, occasionally frustrating his wife. He kept a menagerie of used vehicles, loaning them out to whoever had need. His generosity continued into his retirement years. In 1992, he and Phyllis moved next door to their son Greg in Bloomington. Their house became a home for a family from Albania, for international graduate students, missionaries, and a disabled veteran and friend, Al Sohlstrom. After moving to Bloomington, Robert and Phyllis joined fellowship with Sherwood Oaks Christian Church.
In February 2006, Robert and Phyllis celebrated 50 years of marriage. Around that time, Robert and Phyllis joined the Orthodox Church. Three years later, Robert suffered a life-changing stroke, paralyzing his left side. After rehabilitation, he remained paralyzed with limited use of his left leg. Despite the challenges, he and Phyllis were able to live at home with round-the-clock care for two-and-a-half years until Alzheimer’s became a bigger problem for Phyllis.
In September 2011, Robert and Phyllis moved into Greenwood Village South Pavilion. Robert resided there comfortably, talking the ears off anyone who would listen. To his last few days, he could recall stories of his childhood, Africa, the emergency room, and on and on. His short-term memory was failing, but his heart never failed until his last days.
He is survived by his wife, Phyllis; his sister Barbara Davis; his aunt Carolyn Crunk; his uncle Billy Godwin; his sons Phil (wife Irene) Greg (wife Vicky) and John (wife Amy); their grandchildren in order of birth: Jeremy, Jonathan, Emily, Lauren, Ransford, Ian, Riley, Noah, Julia and Thomas; Jeremy’s wife, Michelle (Mish); his cousin Tommy Wolfe, and numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins; and his great-granddaughter, Charlotte Walker.
His father and mother and his two brothers preceded him in death.
Funeral services took place at Sherwood Oaks Christian Church in Bloomington, Ind., on Wednesday, May 8, at 11 a.m.
In lieu of flowers, you may consider a donation to FAME (Fellowship of American Medical Evangelists) or Good News Productions in memory of Robert.
Robert Murray Walker, MD lived a full life. We can measure the success of his life not in his material wealth but in the wealth of family, friends, and fond memories of a life well spent.
There is no goodbye. His memory will linger until we see him again.
I wrote these words on the eve of his passing:
The cold face of the clock stares unfazed
The hands of time march on like mindless tin soldiers
The long shadow of death slowly stretches
Breaths rhythmically rise and fall like tiny waves
The slender pulse persists though its source is failing
Where is the mind that lived such a marvelous life
Is he unaware
Is he already there
He knows not what awaits but whom he has known for most of his life
He knows those warm deep eyes though he had never seen them before
He recognizes the touch he just felt for the first time
He knows the voice and follows like a thirsty lamb
Life is not over