On the evening of December 12, 2018 the founder and longtime Director of Hiawatha Youth Camp, Billy Walker, went home to be with the Lord. Let me first thank so many of you for the outpouring of support we have received. Through the viewing, the funeral service and the days following so many cards, hugs, letters, and prayers on our behalf have been so greatly appreciated.
Of course, Billy Walker was far more than the Director of Hiawatha. He was Dad, Husband, Grandpa, Uncle, and one of the biggest cheerleaders any of us have ever known. Christmas was quite different this year as our family experienced a wide range of emotions throughout the holiday season. While the sadness was (and is) very real, I’ve also come to appreciate the Christ of Christmas - and the hope that He brings - in very powerful ways.
There was also a very real emotion of jealousy which I wasn’t really expecting. As Believers in Christ, we often talk about looking forward to seeing Jesus when loved ones die. Truthfully, that idea scares me.
Do I want to see Him? Yes - but at this stage of the game it’s to me still a daunting thought. In case you’re wondering why, it’s because “HE’S JESUS!” If that thought isn’t rather awe inspiring and rather intimidating, then – as CS Lewis wrote - your God is too tame.
My Dad has now seen Him. That’s a pretty cool thought. He got to spend Christmas Eve with Mr. & Mrs. VanAcker, to see his Uncle Earl and Mom and Dad for Christmas. He’s now been able to reunite with old friends like Larry Coy, Wendy Collins and Don Lonie.
He’s no doubt reminisced with Doug Oldham and the Speers on concerts and weeks together at Hiawatha and the blessings that accompanied them. My Dad has now had donuts with Hoppy and been able to help put the sunset in the western sky, “like a nickel in the slot of tomorrow,” like he used to say.
He’s shared with Bob Kitely the work that continues at HYC due to his involvement years ago and talked with Mrs. Baker about what a great job her grandson did on staff last year. He’s shared a Coke with Jimmy King and told him everything Billy has been doing at the church, given a hug to Amy King and told her about the Coffee Connection that was created in her memory.
He’s sat down with some of the old timers from Piatt Lake from 50 years ago like Rev. Knickerbocker, Dr. Morrill and Dr. Wiens. He’s passed on a “thank you” to Mr. Kresge and asked him if he ever thought his large donation to help construct a Miracle Building in 1973 would touch the lives of so many young people.
I can guarantee you he’s found Mr. Zelle and asked him if he had any idea that hundreds would be saved and thousands of lives changed because of their week at HYC... on the very property he suggested Dad lease for a summer camp.
So, while we missed my Dad this Christmas, there is no way I would have wanted it any other way. He was finally able to celebrate with the One he had spent a lifetime serving. He finished well. And for that I’m extremely proud and eternally thankful.