In the Spotlight: Meet Andy Walker

10 April 2017

My wife, Marcia and I, met just over 8 ½ years ago on Match.com. We were an instant ‘hit,’ and, in fact, married only six months after meeting. When looking for a place to wed, we spoke to my parents, who reminded me that my mother, Shirlee Walker, had directed the choir at the First Unitarian Church back in the early 60s and that might be a good venue to check on. We met with Tom Goldsmith and felt a strong attraction to the church, Tom, and the foundation of UU-ism. Neither of us were ‘church people’ nor did we have any kind of voluntary church presence in our past. Tom married us on Super Bowl Sunday Feb 1st 2009. The following Sunday we attended church, for both of us, the first time in our lives not dragged by a parent or attending a wedding or funeral. We LOVED Tom’s sermon: “That Thing Called Love” and were instantly hooked. During the coffee hour in Eliot Hall, we met a gal named Krista Bowers who was a member of the UU Chancel Choir. After telling her how we came to be married at this church, she insisted we come to choir rehearsal the following Wednesday evening. We walked in the door not knowing an alto from a fence post but, nevertheless, fell immediately in love with the choir and have been utterly engaged with it ever since.

I grew up in Salt Lake City, which was ‘interesting’ in the 60s and 70s for a non-Mormon- this valley was vastly more LDS back then and I and my family was not part of the ‘flock’. We were an outdoor family, raised by parents who loved hiking and skiing; that was my focus from early childhood and I think I went overboard to distance myself and my actions from the predominate religious culture. My mother had a Masters Degree in Music from the U and sated her love of music by directing choirs around the valley. I clearly recall attending a rehearsal at the Episcopal Church with her just before Christmas one year, I was probably in the 3rd or 4th grade, and was dumbfounded listening to the choir sing “Angels We Have Heard On High.” I think choir singing got under my skin at that moment, though it took over 45 years to do anything serious with the desire.

My father was in the army when I was born and was transferred to Wiesbaden, Germany for a few years when I was very young. We lived on an American airbase and so from age 1 to 4, I was exposed to continual aircraft images, noise and shear power that overwhelmed my senses, but also thrilled me. After returning to our Utah home in 1959, my dad resigned his commission and settled into a relatively normal life with a wife and 5 children. In 1963, Treasure Mountain, which is now Park City, opened with a need for ski patrolmen. My dad was a member of the National Ski patrol and had patrolled at Alta, part time in the early 60s, so Treasure Mountain was a natural for him, plus it offered free skiing to the entire family! That was the beginning of a very serious love of snow skiing for me and all my brothers. We had a younger sister, Heidi, who was too young to ski at the time. In 1965, my parents got wind that Salt Lake Winter Sports, now Alta Ski Lifts, was in search of an entrepreneur willing to take on a mid-mountain restaurant called The Watson Shelter. We ended up winning the business and that began the most magnificent growing up fairy tale life one could possibly imagine- a ‘Tom and Huck’ life in all distinctions except on a ski hill rather than a river. I’ve written a great deal about this chapter of my life and so did my mother who passed away in 2009, six weeks after Marcia and I were married. She left behind an unpublished book called “The Other Side of the Counter” all about our history at Alta. I intend, after retirement, to team with her, posthumously, and re-write, and hopefully publish, this book

That lifestyle lead to a brief foray into professional freestyle skiing when I was 20 (moguls, ballet and aerials) but I was too much of a party boy to be a serious competitor so went back to school, entering the University of Utah in 1975. In 1977 it did not snow until January so I had nothing to do during fall break. Having been taught carpentry skills during our Watson years, I ended up building a parts department inside an aircraft engine overhaul shop at the Salt Lake International Airport. After completing the job, which took about a year, I was asked to become a mechanic at this shop and they taught me all I needed to know. I subsequently dove into aviation with all my might and became an airline pilot. I have been flying now for 40 years and have been an airline pilot for 34. I’m on the final glide path of this career which I’ll finish on my 65th birthday (2 years, 8 months and 10 days from now, but who’s counting?)

My ‘words to live by’ include the Golden Rule: “Do unto others. . . ” but I also love a quote from the book/movie- “Lonesome Dove”- “It’s better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it.” (Captain Call’s words of wisdom as he hands a gun to Newt, who’s going on his first ride with the gang to Mexico to wrangle some horses from across the border.)

I’m deeply impressed with the Unitarian non-dogmatic exploration of religions and the church’s commitment to helping do good things for our congregation, our community and the wide world. I find Tom’s intelligence-based sermons intriguing and sometimes, even life changing. I’m a junior pilot at Southwest (three years) because I’ve been at a lot of airlines that failed post deregulation, so I work nearly all weekends and am rarely at church on Sundays. But when I can muster attendance, I’m invariably very impressed. I often watch the sermons later, on YouTube.

Marcia and I signed the book soon after we started attending- it was clear to us that the church and its ideals were in nearly prefect alignment with our own values. Making the commitment seemed like a no-brainer.

I’m kind of a natural organizer and cheerleader. These tendencies, along with a deep love of our choir, led me to become the choir president a few years ago (I bid my trips to always have Wednesday evenings off so I can be at rehearsal). I stay pretty busy in that capacity and find it extremely fulfilling. This year’s budget crisis found me heading up the choir’s fundraising drive and that’s been a fantastically high workload added to my life. My love of this church inspires me to do everything I can in that capacity, but organizing a fundraising drive every week for several months is a tremendous amount of work. I’m very proud of the success we, the choir, have enjoyed in this pursuit.

We also pledge generously! It is unimaginable to me that anyone in our church doesn’t pledge, signed or not. The value of what we receive is immeasurable and pledging is the brick and mortar that pays for all of it. Buildings and staff are not free. Not pledging is nearly tantamount to stealing in my view. You shouldn’t take something without offering something in return.

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