Russ “Rusty” Walker
Russ “Rusty” Walker passed away on Sept. 20, 2021, when his liver finally decided to fight back. He was surrounded by his wife and children. Russ may have been young at only 58, but what he lost in time he more than made up for in experiences. Born in Pittsburgh in 1963, he grew up in the suburbs of the Steel City in Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania, the youngest of four children of Gail and Bill Walker. It did not take long for Russ to grow restless, and at the age of 18, he hitchhiked to Alaska. Eventually his mother begged him to come home and try college, and he enrolled in the forestry program at Penn State’s DuBois campus.
Russ only lasted a week at school before leaving to further his “studies” at the local lumber mill, but a week was all it took to meet his true love, Coowe Moss. He stole Coowe from her boyfriend for the first but not the last time, and they travelled back to Alaska, settling in Ketchikan. There, they lived in a tent with a crew of broke loggers, trying to figure out how to survive eating wild game, fish and berries. After a year of sleet and rain, Coowe decided that maybe she ought to go back to school, and they split up for 13 years, until Russ would steal her from her boyfriend again and bring her to Homer.
Russ worked as a carpenter in the big city (Anchorage), and eventually drifted down to Homer in the mid ’80s, where he lost his wallet and became a fisherman, working on crab boats, longliners and seiners. He sold firewood, logged and trapped, and he taught himself to timberframe. He explored the Brooks Range and found gold. He loved living simply and close to the land, no power, no plumbing, no problem. He learned to mill wood, and started building timberframe cabins and small homes for people, excelling in remote builds. Russ loved music; he was an excellent drummer and an accomplished guitarist, playing in several Homer Bands (Power Wagon, Common Ground, Bark Beetle Bandits) during the ’90s. His business, Smokey Bay Beamery, became Alaska Timberframe Inc., and he built dozens of timberframes across the state, many of which are in Homer.
Russ was a sweet, generous, independent man, who cherished providing for people, whether it be moose meat or wood. He knew what was real, and was a loving father and husband, leaving behind three children: Liza, Sammy, and Daisy, and his wife, Coowe. He is survived by his older siblings: Lindy Walker, Jane (and Mike) Albo, Bill (and Laura) Walker, many nieces and nephews, and friends. He is preceded in death by his beloved mother, his father, and his son Kipp. Russ touched many people’s lives, and there are many ‘Russ’ stories-if you have some to share, please come to the memorial gathering for friends and family on Oct. 2 at the Alaska Timberframe shop from 3-6 p.m. Rest in peace big bear.