Robert Walker Jr.

[ Age 55 ] The meticulous production chief of `Baltimore's Child' magazine enjoyed theater, books and jazz.

December 10, 2006|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,sun reporter

Robert B. Walker Jr., longtime head of production at Baltimore's Child, a monthly magazine for area parents and children, took his own life Wednesday. The Upperco resident was 55.

Mr. Walker was born in Baltimore and raised on his family's farm in Upperco. He was a 1969 graduate of Franklin High School, where he was senior class president, and earned a bachelor's degree in journalism from American University in Washington in 1973.

He worked as a photographer at Washington Dossier magazine and was a production manager for J. Walter Thompson advertising in Baltimore and New York City.

Since 1990, Mr. Walker coordinated production of Baltimore's Child, which was founded in 1983.

"When Bob joined us, the magazine was 40 pages ... and since that time it has expanded to 100 pages. He gave the magazine its look and accommodated every crazy thing we wanted to do. I knew we were in good hands," said Joanne Giza, co-publisher.

"In 16 years, he only missed one deadline. That was the day his daughter was born," Ms. Giza said. "He taught us so much. We were just a group of women who wanted to put out a magazine. He had all the technical expertise and dragged us kicking and screaming into the real world."

She added: "He was meticulous and demanding of us and himself."

Monthly gatherings in Mr. Walker's home were characterized by animated conversations as editors and publishers went over page proofs while sharing a pot of coffee.

"Bob really was the lone wolf amongst all us hens. Somehow, he managed to carry it off in good humor - although I know our cackling had to have gotten under his skin at times," Ms. Giza said.

She described Mr. Walker as a "very sociable and gregarious man" who enjoyed sipping a perfectly chilled martini with staffers at Baltimore restaurants.

"Bob brought our magazine to a level of sophistication that helped us tremendously because of his background in journalism and newspapers," said Sharon Keech, co-publisher. "He took us into the electronic age and was very patient with us. He just had so much knowledge, and he willingly shared it with us."

In an editor's note that will be published in the January 2007 issue of the magazine, Diane McCann, its editor, reflected on Mr. Walker's death and years there.

"If nothing else, today's news reminds me of how delicately our lives are spun and woven with others' ... how much we depend on each other ... and how worthwhile it is to take the time to acknowledge and appreciate what those around us have done for us lately," Ms. McCann wrote.

Mr. Walker was active in his community and had been president of the Reisterstown, Owings Mills and Glyndon Coordinating Council, and was vice president of the Franklin Middle School PTA.

He had been president of the Hanover Road Association, a neighborhood association bounded by the Hanover Pike, Interstate 795 and the Carroll County line in northwestern Baltimore County. He edited and provided photography for On the Road, its bimonthly newsletter.

"Bob did a wonderful job with the newsletter. It had a certain magnetism that drew people to our organization that helped it grow," said Glen Elseroad, a member.

"He was a very open-minded and fair person. He was the type of person who could disagree with you in a very polite manner," he said. "He never rushed to decisions and preferred to evaluate all the pros and cons of a situation."

Mr. Walker was remembered for his devotion to his family.

"He doted on his children, and his closeness with them was palpable. He was very proud of them, and they were the center of his world," Ms. Giza said.

Mr. Walker was a voracious reader and had accumulated a large library devoted to history, biography and novels. He was also a jazz fan and liked attending the theater.

Services were yesterday.

Surviving are his wife of 16 years, Shirley Van Zandt, who is on the faculty of the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing; a son, Edgar Walker, 11; a daughter, Lucy Walker, 14; his parents, Robert B. and Bernardine Walker Sr. of Upperco; and a sister, Martha Ellen Elles-Hill of London.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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