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Mike Walker ( La Grande 1976 )

posted: Jun 19, 2021

Mike was born in New York City on June 13, 1939, and passed away July 2, 2016, in Ogden, Utah. He graduated from the College of William and Mary (Williamsburg, VA) after pursuing his earliest passion, English Literature (BA 1965). He served as a Public Information Officer for the Division of Air, Department of Health, Education and Welfare in Washington, DC; taught the sixth grade at the Ledyard Public School System in Ledyard, CT; would be Curator for the Thames Science Center in New London, CT; and eventually an administrator for the Conservation and Environmental Studies Center in Browns Mill, NJ. These early positions were intertwined with his continuing education in science, completing his master’s in Environmental Education at New Jersey’s Glassboro State College (MA 1972.

In the early 1970s, Mike put the east coast in his rearview mirror and started a lifelong adventure that would pull him deeper into native habitats. He landed a position as a Fire Lookout at Picket Butte on the Umpqua National Forest, and then as a logger with Columbia Helicopters in western Oregon. During this era, the fuller connection of daily preoccupations in unique forest ecosystems would lead him to immerse himself in a variety of wildlife Graduate Studies (1975-77) at Oregon State University.

In 1975, the excitement and allure of airborne firefighting would find Mike as a 36-year-old rookie Smokejumper in La Grande, OR. He took pleasure in the camaraderie and brotherhood he found there. He was recruited early on to serve as Master of Ceremonies at the annual Termination Ball – an assignment he relished. Always a spirited affair, he held his own roasting peers and dodging friendly harassment, while simultaneously organizing an evening of recognition and honor for his compadres. He would stick with his La Grande adrenaline-junkie family until the smokejumper base closed in 1983.

Mike jumped at La Grande 1976-82 where he made 111 jumps of which 48 were fire jumps.