George Walker, 88, plumber and devoted church leader.

Posted: June 11, 2014

GEORGE WALKER knew what hard work was.

He grew up on his family's sharecropper farm in Sumter, S.C., toiling in the hot fields of cotton and tobacco. Even though he had numerous siblings to pitch in, farm work in the '30s was a tough job.

When he got to Philadelphia in the mid-'40s, he became a plumber, eventually running his own business. He worked residential and commercial properties until his retirement in 1988.

George Walker, one of 15 children of William Walker and the former Ida Williams, a devoted churchman and family patriarch, died May 29. He was 88 and lived in West Philadelphia.

When the Walker family held its numerous get-togethers over the years, you might think some crowd control was needed, because George and his wife, the former Ella Rhone, had 10 children of their own.

Factor in a total of more than 70 grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren - well, you can do the math.

After leaving the farm in 1943, George lived for a time in Washington, D.C., before coming to Philadelphia in 1946. He had only seven years of formal education behind him, but he was hoping for better employment opportunities.

He got a job with a Philadelphia plumbing contractor as a plumber's assistant and quickly became a full-fledged plumber.

After about 20 years, he went out on his own, taking residential and commercial jobs until his retirement.

George Walker was a fun-loving man, according to his son Norman Walker. "He was fun to be around," Norman said. "He had good family values."

George was not the last one to hit the dance floor during occasions when the music was playing.

His wife of more than 50 years worked for the school district as a bus matron, tending to the needs of schoolchildren and keeping order on school buses. She died in May 2008.

George was a member of Bryant Baptist Church in South Philadelphia, serving as a trustee and helping out with the plumbing.

He was especially interested in the welfare of children, and tried to instill in them the same values that he held dear.

"He would help anyone," his son said. "He was an all-around good person. He would take children and teach them the right things to do. He had good values."

Besides his son Norman, he is survived by four other sons, Clarence, Tyrone and William Kevin Walker and Carl Smith; four daughters, twins Shirl Walker and Shirley Autrey; Sharon Van Loan and Sheia Walker; a brother, Horace Walker; a sister, Helen Walker Denny; 23 grandchildren, 40 great-grandchildren and 10 great-great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by another son, Thomas Walker.

Services: Were Saturday. Burial was in Fernwood Cemetery.

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