In Memory

Kenneth Walter

Kenneth Walter

Ken Walter

April 8, 1944 - August 30, 2016

Ken Walter has been dealing with serious health issues for the past several months, in and out of ICU, on the road to recovery only to have another relapse.  He finally passed on Tuesday, August 30, with his family at his side.  His obituary was listed here:

Ken was an entirely unique person.  He was driven by a need for success and always expecting more from himself than anybody could reasonably deliver.  But he delivered .... in big ways.  He was always planning his next big adventure, whether attending a rock concert, athletic event or expanding his business.

Yet he was always "our Ken" to those of us who have known him since high school.  Our California Custer alums sheepshead nights at his home in Woodside (for about the same stakes we played for in high school) were riotous, full of laughter, insults, and braggadocio about athletic prowess well beyond the realities of it.  And it was always his wife Bonnie (Buck Walter) who was laughing the hardest at all the insults directed at her husband of 50 years.  Bonnie has been by Ken's side since our days in high school when she was forbidden to date him and had to sneak out of the house pretending to be on dates with other guys in order to be with Ken.

Ken was fiercily loyal to his friends and family ... and extended family which included most of his employees.  He sometimes ran his business as a social welfare agency, seeing to employees in time of special needs. 

Ken will be missed in so many ways by so many people.


As a post script to the above announcement, Ken's funeral, like everythihg about Ken was over the top!  There were easily 300 people in attendance.  There were hundreds of photos and a slide show depicting events in Ken and Bonnie's lifes.  There were 400 or more baseball caps that Ken had collected on trips all over the world from concerts to sporting events.  They were left for attendees to take as a rememberance.  Mouners were of every size, age and color. There were wealthy businessmen to a black, female boxer who Ken had befriended and supported both financially and spiritually ... helping her through a failed Olympic trial to becoming a professional. 

The tributes to Ken lasted for an hour and a half before they had to be cut off.  It could have gone on for hours more.  Everybody had a Ken "story" that was usually both side-splitting at the same time touching.  And it was his son, Chad, who had the most touching comments ending his tribute.  "Dad, I've found the one thing that is harder to say to you than "I love you." ... it's knowing how to say "Good Bye."





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09/01/16 10:20 PM #1    

Jim Cejka

“A great soul serves everyone all the time. A great soul never dies. It brings us together again and again” 

~ Maya Angelou


Ken did serve everyone, all the time. I knew Ken ‘around’ Custer, but not so much on a personal basis. At sports events, around school, he was always easy to spot - easy going, great smile (nice to have perfect teeth, Ken), and an advanced case of charisma. 

Serve everyone he did. When some of us west-coasters talked about having a reunion out here, Ken stepped up and offered his place. He even “imported” genuine Wisconsin brats for us, and a great time was had by all. When I became a volunteer at a museum in San Francisco, I noticed that he was already a donor to the museum. We desperately needed an AED, so I started a quest. I specifically asked Ken, not for money - he was already a donor - but for a “who’s who” to contact. He served up again, gave me a name, and we got not one, but two AEDs as a result. 

I was fortunate to re-meet Ken and Bonnie again here in California.  A few less hairs, gray now, not quite the athletic figure, but the same smile, and same character as so many years ago.

Bonnie has been so lucky to have what, 60 or so years with him. I (we) are lucky to have just known him.

Thanks Ken, for the memories.

09/02/16 09:45 AM #2    

David Holm

Shocked and saddened by the news of Kens passing, way too soon.  A talented athlete,sucessful businessman and all-around nice guy.  My prayers go out for Bonnie and family and special friends like the "sheepshead gang".  Thanks for the happy memories.

09/03/16 06:21 PM #3    

Garry Sellers

These are comments from George (Fink) White, an extremely close friend of Ken's and a 1963 graduate of Custer (therefore can't technically get onto this site).  In speaking of Ken's fierce loyalty to friends, George has been one who Ken has had his arm around George's shoulder in spite of their complete opposite political polarity ... neither of them anywhere near middle ground .. .  but shared a love of music and concerts, shared an empty apartment when they first came to California,  and stood by each other in sickness and times of troubles. They were truly very close friends.

"I met Ken for the first time during the summer of 1960 on the basketball court at Grantosa School just behind his house on Hampton Ave., in Milwaukee.

One of my first impressions of Ken was how competitive he was. I can’t say I had ever met anybody quite like Ken. I suspect many of us would say the same thing. We spent most of our teen years playing basketball together. We were a good combination. He could run, jump, and rebound and I couldn’t. The other thing I remember from his basketball playing was his tremendous grip. If he ever got his hands on a rebound, nobody was going to take it away. He was ferocious.

We went to Custer High School together. One of my early memories was the lunch table where Bonnie sat with her very interesting friends. My argument with Ken was that “I saw Bonnie first” That didn’t hold much water. I think that once he set eyes on Bonnie, he knew who he wanted to be with. He was very persistent in wooing her and before long, they were a couple.

I remember Ken always had a mind of his own and that the rules didn’t apply to him. Custer had an away basketball game in Elkhorn, WI, which was pretty unusual.

When Ken found out that the school was not going to bus our fans to the game, Ken hired a bus company, collected money, and scheduled the trip. Everything went off without a hitch, until the next morning, when the principal found out what Ken had done. Boy, did that raise a ruckus. I suspect not much happened after they had time to think about it. They had to give Ken credit for his initiative.

Ken was not part of the cool group. He always danced to his own drum. But he was always a leader. When we heard that Ken was running for Senior Class President, we all asked “how was Ken going to win.” We didn’t consider that Bonnie would be his campaign manager. Ken’s victory was as much his as it was hers. She has been his campaign manager ever since.

He was also a good organizer. I was reminded a couple of years ago, by one of our classmates, Bob Woeffl, of a track meet that Ken set up. He had all the events, sign-up sheets, times, heights, and distances recorded. We invited everyone we knew to participate. After all these years, Bob remembered what a good time we had. Ken was just more imaginative that the rest of us when it came to fun activities.

Ken really liked drafting class, with Mr. Tachee. I remember he could make the best arrowheads. That was Ken, always the best.

There is a straight line between his drafting, to his first job as a draftsmen for an electrical distributor, straight through to Steven Engineering. He knew exactly where was going.

Ken was always driven to win. He was the high school city champion in hurdles and he made it to the state championship finals. There he met a challenge that will-power alone was not going to win. DAKIN.  Dakin’s times were better than Ken’s all season long. In the finals, Ken was on the outside lane. He decided that the only way that he had a chance to win was to drag his trail leg around the outside of the hurdle. He would have rather won and been disqualified than take 2nd or 3rd. As it turned out, he was disqualified and Dakin won comfortably. Dakin went on to win the Big Ten championship 4 years in a row. Ken never showed any regrets.

Early in our business careers we both had companies but our company was bigger than Steven Engineering at the time. We decided to have a basketball game and the looser would buy pizza and beer. I was pretty sure we would win. Not so fast. When we showed up at the game, Ken had a bunch of ringers, big guys from college, to insure that he would win the game. You can imagine the blank eating grin on his face when they won and we had to buy the pizza.

Ken earned all the success he achieved. Nobody worked harder, unless it was Bonnie, who did it in high heels and backwards.

Ken had a tremendous impact on my life and many others, I’m sure. If I needed to know how to fix something, I’d call Ken. If I need to know where to get something, call Ken. He was my Google before there was Google. Whenever I would face a challenge, I would ask myself, “WHAT WOULD KEN DO?” When I would be wavering on something, my ex and business partner Rose would say, “WHAT WOULD KEN DO?” Thank you Ken for everything. I will always ask, “WHAT WOULD KEN DO?”.

George (Fink) White



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