Fred Walker: Veteran, Phi Kap, Man with a Million Dollar Smile

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This past April, Skull House lost brother W.Z.F. “Fred” Walker ’48, just five days short of his 95th birthday. The man ‘with a million-dollar smile’ loved the time he spent in the Phi Kappa Sigma house and stayed close to his brothers for most of his life. 

Only a few years ago, he came back to visit Skull House with his daughter Wendy, and found it locked. “Just a minute,” he told her, and disappeared around the back. Within minutes, he was inside the house, unlocking the front door for her with a huge grin on his face. “To this day I don’t know what he did,” she says. “Apparently he knew the secret code/handshake/whatever to get in the back when the door was locked and got such a kick out of the fact that he still knew the old way to enter. He didn't share the secret with me!”

Fred spent an active retirement checking things off his bucket list, whitewater rafting, traveling and playing tennis well into his 90s.

Before Penn State, Fred joined the army, becoming part of the "Tank Corp" in the 47th Army-14th Armored Tank Division, later known as the Liberators after the Battle of the Bulge. The Tank Corp rode ahead of the troops in jeeps to test the Army’s strength, find their position, and try to report back. He served as a scout and rifleman, but to his lifelong disappointment, he injured his spine in a Jeep incident just two weeks before they were to ship out, was hospitalized and in traction. He was told by the officers that they "could not have any light duty men tagging along," and was honorably discharged weeks later in September 1944 without ever going overseas.

Fred and Ellie at a pledge dance. They met on his first night in State College.

He entered Penn State in 1945 to train as a Civil Engineer. “On his very first night in State College, he met my mom, Eleanor Zins (PSU '46),” Wendy says. “It was at a dance at the Autoport, which was then a big dance hall, and they were married on Sept 13, 1947. They held their wedding reception at the Phi Kappa Sig house!” 

He was treasurer and secretary at Phi Kappa Sig, a foretelling of his future in organizing and managing money. He briefly played basketball for the Nittany Lions "while most of the guys were overseas and there was no one else," forming a close friendship with fellow brother and player Leigh Wohling. He stayed lifelong friends with Leigh, as well as George Meeker ’48 and Bob Stevens ’48

WFZ's daughter Wendy reached out to verify his place on the Skull House Memorial Plaque. His PSU Skull legacy lives on!

After he graduated, Fred took a career job with Libbey Owens Ford Glass Co. His career took him to NYC, Boston, Denver, Richmond and Atlanta before he retired to Denver. He and Ellie enjoyed an active retirement, traveling extensively and enjoying “all sports,” says Wendy, especially tennis, skiing, volleyball and golf. “He played tennis nearly every day into his early 90s and skied into his mid-80s.” 

On his 80th birthday, he’d completed bucket list entries of whitewater rafting, flying a single-engine plane, riding in a glider and going up in a hot air balloon. He and Ellie had three children: Tamie, Ted and Wendy. Rest in peace, Fred. We are honored to have played a part in such a vibrant life.