Trooper remembered for kind heart, humor
By James Peacemaker, Jr., Managing Editor
Mar 13, 2013, 13:27
POOL PHOTO BY STEVE HELBER/ASSOCIATED PRESS Mourners carry flowers and a photo of Virginia State Trooper Junius A. Walker after his funeral at the Good Shepherd Baptist Church in Petersburg on Tuesday.
PETERSBURG — State Trooper Junius “J.A.” Walker was remembered Tuesday as imposing figure who could put fear in those he faced, but those who knew him best said he was a gentle giant who would go out of his way to help others.
And it was his willingness to help others that may have ultimately led to his death.
He was shot March 7 in Dinwiddie along Interstate 85 as he stopped to help what he likely thought was a stranded motorist.
Thousands of people came out to Good Shepherd Baptist Church in Petersburg to pay their final respects to Walker, who was remembered for his kind heart and sense of humor.
Among those who spoke at his funeral was Gov. Bob McDonnell.
“There are no words we can say to express our gratitude that we have for his life that was sacrificed or the pain that I know all in uniform feel today,” he said.
POOL PHOTO BY STEVE HELBER/ASSOCIATED PRESS Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell speaks during the funeral for Virginia State Trooper Junius A. Walker, at the Good Shepherd Baptist Church in Petersburg on Tuesday.
Col. W. Steven Flaherty, superintendent of the Virginia State Police, recalled Walker as a man of integrity who served as a mentor for many other state troopers.
“He was built like a grizzly bear but he had the disposition of a teddy bear,” he said.
Flaherty said he met Walker in 1976 early in their careers and the two were shift partners in northern Virginia.
He recalled how Walker would come down to Flaherty’s territory in Stafford, always wanting to help out however he could. He also recalled how Walker was a good person to have along side him in a fight.
“You’d be in the thick of things in one of these situations, and you’d feel this presence and it was J.A. And I tell you, it was a real keen sense of comfort that came over you when you knew he was there. And it was really comforting to know that these yahoos that you were trying to pull apart, they had met their match.”
He said due to Walker’s size, he didn’t have to say a lot to be heard. He recalled one instance when a man in his living room indicated that he was not going to be taken in without a fight.
“And this guy says something along the lines of ‘I am not going to go with you very quietly.’ Calmly, J.A. points around the furniture in the room. He says ‘Well, you need to pick out what of this you want to save and we’ll move it into the other room because things are going to get broken up in here.’ This guy says, ‘Let me get my coat.’”
Retired State Police Col. W. Gerald Massengill, who lives in Dinwiddie, recalled Walker as a “supervisor’s dream.”
He met Walker in 1984 when he was Walker’s first sergeant in Dinwiddie. He worked with Walker on everything from hurricane evacuations to prison riots to coalfield shipyard strikes.
He recalled Walker as “slow to speak, slow to anger, quick to listen.”
“I never heard Junius Walker ever interrupt someone in casual conversation,” he said.
Another speaker, retired Master Trooper Charlie Weaver, said Walker was a big man but “He never made you feel small.”
POOL PHOTO BY STEVE HELBER/ASSOCIATED PRESS Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, consoles Betty Walker, wife of Virginia State Trooper Junius A. Walker.
Walker leaves behind his wife, Betty; two daughters, Vera (Jason) of Prince George, Va., and Clarissa (Joe) of Dinwiddie; and a son, Derrick of Sweden. He also had three young grandchildren.
A private burial was held in Brunswick County following his funeral.