ROBERT GRAHAM WALKER
Robert Graham Walker left this life Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013, in the comfort of his home surrounded by his loving wife, Celia, and his adoring family. He was 68 years old.
Robert was born on Aug. 28, 1944, in Dallas, Texas. He graduated from Petal High School in Mississippi, where he was a record-holding standout in track and field and a Civil Air Patrol cadet. He earned a bachelor's and master's degree in business management and education from Mississippi State University.
He married Celia Milian Koehn of Key West on Dec. 23, 1986. They recently celebrated their 26th anniversary at a family celebration that was an annual tradition. Together, they have seven daughters.
Robert moved to Key West in 1967 and began what was to become a legendary career in public education, his life's passion. He spent many of his years as the principal of Horace O' Bryant (HOB) Middle School, which would become a National School of Excellence in the first year of the national program. The school leadership was honored at a reception with President Ronald Reagan at the White House. Robert provided great leadership and touched the lives of many of Key West's youth. Upon his retirement, the School Board named the newly constructed Educational Center at HOB after him.
In 1992, Robert became Monroe County superintendent of schools, where he proudly "Put Kids First." He was a visionary whose leadership elevated our schools to 21st century standards. He set the foundation and put in place the structure for the modernization and building of new schools throughout the county. He also worked with other community leaders to develop and implement programs that empower our youth such as: PACE Center for girls, Take Stock in Children, the Monroe County Education Foundation, and Keys Kids. Although he retired in 1996, many of these programs continue to enrich the lives of our children today.
His years of service to this community would continue when he became the executive director of AIDS Help in 2000. Robert led the organization into what it is today, and left a shining star in our community with the Poinciana Royale Housing Center. Its gardens were dedicated to him on May 19, 2011.
Robert often expressed great admiration toward the many people he worked with and served in the school system and AIDS Help. He considered them part of his extended family.
Robert has been a leader, director, and member of many organizations and clubs. He was a proud Rotarian for many years, serving the organization in many capacities, and was recognized as a Paul Harris Fellow. The Rotary Club of Key West recently honored him with the Robert G. Walker Humanitarian Scholarship, to be bestowed annually to an outstanding high school senior. The club also collaborated with the Monroe County School Board to dedicate the new library at HOB in his honor.
In July of 2012, Mayor Craig Cates and the city of Key West proudly proclaimed July 18 as Robert G. Walker Day for "making Key West a better place to live for our needy friends and neighbors."
Robert will not be remembered for what he accumulated in his life, but for what he did for others while he was here. He was extremely loved and respected by all who knew him.
Camping was one of his biggest joys. He loved parading his family around the country in his RV, visiting different cities while taking in our wonderful heritage. He also loved gardening, growing beautiful orchids, and happy hours with his girls.
Robert was preceded in death by his grandparents, James "Papa Bob" Robert Flaherty and Sarah "Mama Nell" Ellen Aston, his father, Francis "Scott" Marion Walker, brothers Maurice "Scotty" Walker and Frances "Toy" Merrill Walker, and sister Loralee "Candy" Miller. He is survived by his wife, Celia; their daughters, Cierra Walker, Ginger Molina (Roberto), Dina Schoneck (John), LoriAnn Koehn, Gloria Straube (Andy), Lisette Niles (Jack III), and Robin Reid; his mother, Lillian "Mama Lil" Walker; mother-in-law, Celina Milian; his sister Maurita "Tissie" Talley, his brother James "Randy" Walker; his most precious grandchildren, Robbie Molina, John Evan Schoneck, Lauren Schoneck, Raquel Schoneck, Julia Rose Niles, Scarlet Niles, Jack Niles IV, Bennett Walker Straube, Luke Koehn Straube, Harrison Straube; and many nieces and nephews.
A visitation will be held Monday evening, March 4, 2013, in Hattiesburg, Miss., with a memorial service Tuesday, March 5, 2013. A celebration of life will be held in Key West, Fla., to be announced at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, the family wishes donations to be made on behalf of Robert to the Key West Rotary Club Foundation, 819 Peacock Plaza, #822, Key West, FL 33040, for the Robert G. Walker Humanitarian Scholarship.
We would like to thank the community for all of the wonderful well-wishes, prayers, love, and support given to Robert and our family.