Dee Walker is retired now. Before retirement, he worked mainly in manufacturing for 50 years including time at Olympic Stain and Kenworth Trucks . He is also approaching the 50 year mark in his marriage with his wife Sally- a marriage which has given him a wonderful family of 2 children and 2 grandchildren. One of his grandsons attends Montana State while the other is a junior in high school looking to play collegiate baseball. Even though the parents of his Montana State grandson also went to college there- Walker was born and raised in Seattle. His grandfather was also born in Seattle (in 1890) so Dee’s Seattle roots go far back.
Growing up in Seattle, Walker was first introduced to rowing when he joined Green Lake Crew in high school in 1965. He rowed two years in high school and eventually went down the road to the University of Washington to join their rowing program for four years. His coach at Washington was the legendary Dick Erickson. Erickson coached from 1968 to 1987 and added achievements such as a national collegiate championship and a Henley Royal Regatta victory to his coaching resume.
When asked about his favorite rowing memories, Walker had many, but reflected on two during his time as a Husky Oarsman. In 1970 the first Opening Day Regatta (now known as Windermere Cup) was held on the Montlake Cut course. “UCLA at the time had a really good men’s program, and UCLA came up for a dual with Washington. The Junior Varsity race was first. I rowed bow in the boat and we won. So I was the first person to cross the finish line in the first Opening Day Regatta!” Walker said with a grin, reflecting on how cool the experience was.
It turns out Walker wasn’t the only one in his family to have rowed for the Huskies. In 1918 and 1919 his grandmother rowed on the women’s team at Washington. Women were judged on style and form rather than race results. Eventually the women’s team at the time fizzled out and the modern team we know today started up in 1969. Dee’s younger brother also rowed for the Huskies, graduating in 1979.
After his collegiate rowing days were over, Walker took a bit of a break from the sport. Make that a 45 year break. Walker recalled that there was a point once he retired that his wife said, “I’m tired of the same old stories. I want some new rowing stories. Find some new friends and start rowing again.” With that encouragement, as well as the growing reputation of SRA, Walker decided to row again. So in 2015 Dee joined the 5am team at Sammamish Rowing Association.
During his 45 years away from rowing, Dee remained active in water sports including canoeing expeditions in Canada, Montana, and on the Columbia River. In addition he raced marathon canoes (2 to 3 hour races at 60 strokes per minute) for over 30 years. This included a 3rd place finish in the 1998 World Masters Games.
Walker talked about another favorite memory that began shortly after joining SRA. “Dave Worthington, Scott Merritt, Steve Waltar, and I were talking and we were like, ‘you know- we ought to talk with Tom and see if we can get him to enter a 60 year old 4+ at the Head of the Charles.’ Tom didn’t want to do it, but we finally convinced him to. We got into the race and finished 3rd which earned us a place the next year. We were 3rd again the following year. In 2017 I wasn’t in the boat, but they won and set a course record. It was the first SRA boat to ever win a Head of the Charles event.” Walker is still ecstatic for his teammates’ win just like he was for his 1970 Husky Crew when they won the IRA National Championship. He is proud of SRA and his teammates and it was a moment he will never forget.
Dee is also proud of the SRA team accomplishments at the 2018 Masters Nationals. We combined teammates from across SRA plus junior coxswains. “We practiced together, we raced together, and we won together. Over 40 SRA athletes and coaches participated in Oakland. We won the team points championship.” Dee is a “visual” person and the best indicator of the team’s success was seeing the entire back of the team truck filled with “hardware”.
Walker has had so many valuable and fun experiences in his life and as a rower. He credits the sport with teaching him the importance of teamwork. “My best friends to this day are the people I rowed with in college and now my SRA teammates. Because I know other people are counting on me and I am counting on them - it’s one of the most important life lessons- knowing with certainty you can count on your teammates,” he added.
Dee knows rowing is a wonderful sport and is thrilled so many people love the sport as much as he does. He believes it keeps a person young. It is fun for him to know that his grandsons are older than most of the junior rowers yet Dee still has the opportunity to row and race with his teammates.
His advice? “If you’re a student- stick to your studies.” For less experienced rowers, he encourages them to appreciate older, more experienced rowers for their accomplishments and to ask about their stories. Walker regrets not talking to experienced rowers he had multiple opportunities to talk to. Some of those rowers ended up becoming renowned in the book The Boys in the Boat. His last bit of advice is to be passionate about rowing, have enthusiasm in your life, and take advantage of opportunities you have.
“If you can’t be passionate about something or enthusiastic about something- find something that you can be. Enthusiasm is the foundation of everything. Ralph Waldo Emerson said ‘nothing great is ever accomplished without enthusiasm’, and that’s kind of my motto,” Walker ended with.
Dee now serves as the president of SRA's Board of Directors.