By Melody Vallieu
Miami Valley Sunday News
TROY — A longtime county journalist who formerly co-owned the Troy Daily News has passed.
Joel Walker, 80, who died Wednesday, July 22, began his career as a part-time sports reporter in 1954 for the Troy Daily News. He later became editor, followed by publisher in 1976 and later co-owner of the Troy Daily News. He retired and sold the paper in late 1998.
Walker, of Troy, also held many leadership positions in news organizations and in the community. He served on the boards of the Edison Community College Foundation, Troy Area Chamber of Commerce, RT Industries, Miami Shores Golf Club, Troy Country Club and First United Methodist Church.
“Joel has touched and influenced so many lives throughout his life,” said local veterinarian Dr. Jason Johnston.
Walker and his wife, Nancy, were recipients of the Troy Area Chamber of Commerce 2014 Distinguished Citizen Award.
He leaves his two children, Michael and wife Annalee Walker and Susan Walker Hemm, and four grandchildren, all of which he loved spending time with.
“My dad loved his family more than anything in the world,” said Michael, who said Walker enjoyed attending his grandchildren’s school and sporting events or simply taking them to K’s for lunch.
“Whether it was teaching us about life growing up, talking to us about our day, or simply asking how are you doing, he always would put family first, he truly was selfless,” Susan said.
Former Troy Daily News employee David Fong worked with Walker while he was in high school and full-time following college. Fong remembers Walker, a Milton-Union High School and Miami University graduate, as a journalist who wanted to bring the best possible newspaper to people’s doors daily.
“Joel Walker was a dedicated journalist who loved Troy and Miami County. He wanted his community to have a newspaper it could not only look to for information, but one in which it could be proud,” said Fong, now the director of communications for Troy City Schools.
Fong said Walker, a West Milton native, also looked to a broader scope, bringing the nation and world back to Miami County through journalism.
“Joel wanted bigger and better things for the newspaper,” Fong said. “He wanted to let it expand beyond Miami County’s borders and let his local writers and photographers bring national and international stories home to readers.”
Former Troy Daily News managing editor Nancy Bowman and former executive editor David Lindeman agree.
“There was no doubt Joel loved the newspaper industry,” said Bowman, who has been in journalism for 40 years and resides in Troy. “With TDN owner George Kuser, they strived to cover local news in depth while also allowing their reporters the opportunity to bring the world to Troy.”
He was at the forefront of making the Troy Daily News the best local newspaper for the readers with introducing the Miami Valley Sunday News, according to his family. Walker put the paper on the cutting edge of printing technology by investing in offset printing presses early on to produce a better product for the readers, they said.
Lindeman said he was also a risk taker.
“I think one of the best things he did, he was always willing to allow people to try big ideas,” said David Lindeman, who worked with Walker for 24 years. “Sometimes he had the ideas, sometimes others had the ideas, but he was always willing to give you the opportunity and spend some money to make it happen.”
Co-workers remember, with fondness, some of the unique assignments small-town journalists were afforded working for the Troy Daily News under Walker.
“Under his watch, the TDN covered the war in Vietnam, the Olympics, Democratic and Republican national conventions and the Ohio State Buckeyes, Cincinnati Reds and Cincinnati Bengals,” Fong said. “Joel felt the community in which he was born, raised and made a life for himself deserved nothing but the best from its hometown newspaper.”
Bowman traveled to Japan for the newspaper, among other national assignments.
“In the days before 24-hour news on TV and the internet, we traveled to Japan with Troy’s first Sister City delegation, covered the launch of the space shuttle carrying Troy’s Nancy Currie-Gregg and attended national political conventions, among many other events,” said Bowman, who worked at the TDN from 1983-1999. “The sports staff covered state and national events in addition to teams across the county.”
Throughout his newspaper career, Walker met eight U.S. presidents, several international presidents, prime ministers, kings and queens and professional athletes from Muhammad Ali to Michael Jordan. He traveled the world meeting various people from different counties, backgrounds and cultures.
Sports, especially golf, remained important to Walker, Lindeman said.
Walker covered the Masters golf tournament annually starting in 1971 and was honored by Jack Nicklaus in 2015 for covering Jack’s Memorial Tournament in Columbus for 40 straight years. He was one of two people in the world to cover every single Memorial Tournament since its inception in 1976.
“He just loved golf and all aspects of the sport,” Lindeman said. “He promoted and played in local tournaments and was a very successful local golfer.”
Lindeman said Walker also genuinely cared about people.
“The thing about Joel that a lot of people didn’t realize, is that he really cared about individual people,” Lindeman said. “He did everything to make the paper what it was, but he was also interested and involved with individuals as well. That is something that, unless you knew him well, you didn’t realize he had that aspect to him.”
His family couldn’t agree more.
“He treated everyone no matter where they were from or what their title was the exact same,” Susan said. “He was selfless, kind, soft spoken, patient and people loved being around him and interacting with him, especially his family.”