November 12, 1949 - December 14, 2018
After a courageous battle with cancer, John died with his family by his side, on Friday, December 14, 2018.
John will be greatly missed by Joannie, his wife of 45 years; their children Ian (Sarah) and Andrea (Terrence); and their grandchildren Owen, Max, Isla, and Jacob. He also leaves behind four siblings, Lynda, Karen (Walter), Cindy, and Michael (Connie); as well as sisters-in-law Susan and Margie (Jim). All were such a tremendous support throughout his final difficult journey. Joan and her family wish to thank Cancer Care Manitoba and the many friends, colleagues and neighbours who supported them through John’s illness.
Professor Emeritus in the Department of Clinical Health Psychology at the University of Manitoba, retired Director of the Anxiety Disorders Program at St. Boniface General Hospital and founding member of the boards of the Anxiety Disorders Association of Manitoba (ADAM) and Anxiety Canada were among his many accomplishments. John’s four decade long career as a psychologist was devoted to helping people at all ages with anxiety problems. John completed his PhD in Clinical Psychology at University of Manitoba (1980) and his internship in psychology at the Mendota Mental Health Institute in Madison, Wisconsin. The Institute was a foremost organization in community mental health across North America. He dedicated his career to research, writing and clinical practice in his field.
On December 17, 2018 the Winnipeg Free Press shared an article speaking to John’s work:
Joan was John’s wife, partner and friend of 45 years. Joan once said that it seemed like a lifetime ago that they met in the Tunnel study hall at U of M and started dating. They married at 23; Joan recalls fondly that John often said “too early”. “I’m not sure if he was expressing regret (don’t think so) or simply warning others that older is better,” she said with a smile.
John worked hard at his studies and even harder at his career as a psychologist. When asked what his hobbies were he would say his research.
When he did take a break it was to be with family and in the last number of years this included their 4 sweet grandchildren. Where Grandma instituted the “Treat Fairy”, John would always try to serve veg and dip before a Sunday dinner if the kids were hungry. He called Joan the vegetable police, making sure they didn’t go overboard in this regard!
John enjoyed travelling, especially if they went with one or two other couples. Joan’s job was to plan the trip with dates, locations, accommodation and all; and also get over-the-top excited. When she would ask him if he was excited he would reply “once we are on the plane”. When they arrived, he became the planner, getting them to museums, parks, restaurants, and sometimes just lost!
Some of their bigger trips included such wonderful places as Hawaii, Thailand, Greece, Croatia, Cuba and Spain. Conferences took them to Copenhagen, Florence and London with add-ons of course. They would always add on extra days and cities to their North American trips as well. Their last trip together in the fall of 2017 was a tour of Ireland, a visit to Diana and Martin in the UK, a training session in Amsterdam and ending at a conference in Berlin. Joan was so very glad they had the chance to go as it was soon after their return that John started to have symptoms of the disease which took him from us much too soon.
Teaching came naturally to John. His children and grandchildren were his most important students. Potty training in less than a day...or so, was one of John's claims to fame. Offering monetary incentives to face fears was not an uncommon parenting practice. Instilling his value of knowledge and work ethic did not go unnoticed as John trudged through snow storms with the children when buses were cancelled. John imparted many important life lessons such as "life is full of disappointment, get used to it". Most importantly however John conveyed his never ending love in simple ways, to illustrate, a lullaby he spontaneously composed "rocky, rocky" continues to be a nightly bedtime ritual with the grandchildren.
John was the most supportive dad anyone could ask for. He would listen, share his perspective and support whatever choice his children made letting them know he believed in their strengths and abilities.
Among other interests, John developed a love of camping and the outdoors early in life with his family and carried this on to include Joannie, their children and their grandchildren. Rushing River could not be beat as a place to spend summer vacation. While he was camper at heart, John insisted that this past summer the family rent a cottage at Victoria Beach, another destination that has become a favorite of the family.
John was an avid cyclist and passed on this love to his son and grandchildren. It was his preferred form of transportation for many years and in later years he even cycled through the winter! How appropriate and meaningful it was that John had his last bike ride at Victoria Beach (VB), a bicycle-only summer community. The family quickly found a lovely routine this summer at Victoria Beach. Memories were made cycling to and from the bakery, the park and the beach during the day and once the four grandchildren were in bed, out came the snacks, sweets and wine before settling in together to watch a movie or television program (of which John had researched and read all the online reviews)!
John’s love of Folk Fest was well known and he looked forward to it every year. While he was a ‘Folkie’ in the early days, a new tradition was truly created shortly before his first grandchild was born. Folk Fest became an annual tradition for the family – from the excitement around booking the Birds Hill Campground in the early spring, to reviewing the schedule in advance; he loved the entire experience. He would often be found in the evenings by the mainstage, listening to the music and watching the grandchildren play in the ditch! Even though he loved the music, he would always offer to be the one to take the grandchildren back to the campground and get them to bed so that his kids could stay to enjoy the evening. His selfless and kind nature was always apparent.
Someone once said of John:
“Your professional achievements are impressive and speak for themselves. It is your character that has touched me. You are so humble despite your success…and that speaks to the genuine care you have towards others – whether you know them or not. You are kind, patient, and generous beyond compare and have always been a joy to be around. Thank you for your incredible contributions to PEOPLE – to improving so may people’s lives on so many levels. You have left such an amazing footprint on this world”.
The family would like to encourage all to share their favorite memories of John on this site.
A celebration of John’s life will be held for family and friends at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the "Dr. John Walker and Family Research Fund" at Anxiety Disorders Association of Manitoba (ADAM) .
Memories, Stories and Condolences
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