Richard Walker, the last of 12 Walker children alive, died on Aug. 1 at the age of 92.
The Walker clan, as they were called, were born to Frank Evans Walker and Hortense Victoria (Reynier) Walker — a family whose narrative in Placerita Canyon would become a chapter in the Santa Clarita Valley history books, according to SCVHistory.com.
Walker grew up on Walker Ranch, which his father Frank Walker considered “a stone’s throw from where the first gold was discovered.”
Parts of the several homes his father hand-built on the ranch throughout Placerita Canyon can be seen through the canyon today, including the stone columns and foundation of the family’s first cabin, which still stand just yards north of Placerita Canyon Road.
As the youngest of 12, Walker spent much of his time growing up mining gold with his brothers during World War II and tending to the 10,000 chickens his father raised as part of the war effort.
Walker’s nephew, Bob Walker, fondly remembers the stories his uncle would tell him of life on the ranch.
“They lived off the land mostly,” Bob said. “They had some running water, but they never had any indoor plumbing as far as a bathroom (or electricity). There was an old oil well there that they tapped into to get some natural gas that they used for lighting and their stove. Other than that, it was pretty primitive living.”
On Walker’s 18th birthday, he joined the Air Force, spending a year stationed on the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean, where the U.S. tested nuclear bombs during the Cold War.
“During a rainstorm, Richard was showered with radiation,” Bob said. “He believed that the radiation exposure caused him several cancers and made him unable to have children.”
Today, radiation levels across parts of the islands remain higher than areas contaminated by the Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear disasters.
Though Walker did not return to live in Placerita Canyon following his time in the service, he enjoyed returning to his roots whenever he could.
“He was a really, really good guy and all-around good person,” Bob said. “(He) will be missed by surviving sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, grandchildren and all of his close friends.”
Walker’s graveside memorial service, which included full military honors and a 21-gun salute, was held in Chico this week.