Barbara E. Walker

Barbara E. Walker died at home peacefully on June 26, 2023.

Barbara E. Walker died at home peacefully, June 26, 2023, one month short of her 83rd birthday after a long battle with several health issues. Barbara was a generous woman with many talents. She was a teacher, an artist, a musician, lover of animals, but best known for her gardening expertise. Barbara was born in Utica New York to Elizabeth and Walter F.P. Werner during WWII. A few years later, the family moved to Cleveland, Ohio to be closer to relatives where her sister, Jean, was born. Growing up the family spent many wonderful times ice skating, swimming, and water skiing at the family cottage built by Barb’s dad with lots of help from Barb, her sister, and their mom.

Barbara graduated from West Technical High School with honors. While in high school Barbara was selected to play the viola in the Cleveland All City Orchestra and the Ohio State All State Orchestra. In addition to the viola, Barb played the piano, organ, violin, guitar, and accordion. She was also an accomplished artist with an excellent portfolio. Barbara graduated from Capital University in Columbus Ohio with a BA in Education. She went on to teach in grade school at the Cleveland School District. She always wanted to live in Alaska and surprised her family by securing a teaching position in the Anchorage School district. In August of 1964, she and her sister set off in a Volkswagen bug from Cleveland to drive to Anchorage. They had many adventures along the way, eating kipper snacks for breakfast, visiting national parks, driving the Alcan while following the Milepost, as well as receiving looks of astonishment by people surprised to see two young women driving the Alcan Highway by themselves. Fortunately, they experienced no flat tires or other mechanical difficulties.

After arriving in the Anchorage still reeling from the earthquake, her sister went back to Ohio and Barb started teaching in elementary school. She met and married “Woody” Walker and started another adventure. While in Anchorage she and Woody participated in the Alaska USA pageant. Barb was a showgirl and Woody a dancer.

Eventually they moved to Soldotna living by the Kenai River while Barb continued to teach in elementary school. At Woody’s request she stopped teaching and they took in several foster children. Barb’s mom and dad loved to visit bringing fresh fruit and vegetables, fishing, and then taking home lots of fresh seafood.

Barb and Woody purchased land from “Old Karl” and eventually moved to Homer. In the meantime, they purchased a pawn shop from “Old Pete” which they converted to become the Wagon Wheel Trading Post selling feed and grain. Slowly the business expanded to include chicks, plants and a greenhouse was built. Barb got her interest in plants from her dad who was always interested in gardening and had an uncle he admired who had nursery. Barb and Woody went their separate ways, but Barb continued to run the Wagon Wheel, adding more plants, pets, and tropical fish. Her friend, Jeannie MacArthur, provided many of the beautiful garden starts. During this time, the Wagon Wheel became known as the “Homer Zoo” and many stopped by the well-known sign, “Pick Up Chicks Here” to have their picture taken. In 2015 Barb retired, selling the Wagon Wheel to Steve Veldstra who continues to enhance the Wagon Wheel legacy of 50+ years.

Barbara was preceded in death by her parents, and her longtime companion “Jack” Polster. She is survived by her sister, Jean Wadland James, her nephew Nolan Wadland, and his son, Will; cousins, and the James family:

Geraldine, Adam, Melanie, Eli, John, Diane, and Charlene. We thank Barbara’s wonderful caregivers Debbie, Mary, Jen H., Jen F., Margaret, Kyle, Mila, and Eva, SPH Home Health, Hospice of Homer and her fantastic doctors Christy Martinez M.D. and Sarah Roberts M.D. Also, thanks to many others who helped.

There will be a Celebration of Life at the Wagon Wheel on Sunday, August 20*, at 1:30pm. In lieu of flowers, please plant a tree or consider a donation to Hospice of Homer, Homer Animal Friends or Doctors Without Borders.