A Life Lived: Carolyn Walker was a beacon of hope and light in family, community

Published 11:06 am Tuesday, April 23, 2024


Carolyn Belle Roberts Walker learned to love sports at a young age as she grew up in the small town of Newport, Tenn. Born on January 30, 1928, Carolyn’s life was a testament to resilience, love, and boundless energy that traversed every challenge with a determined smile. Her father, Guy Roberts, owned a feed mill in Newport, and she learned to appreciate hard work and the value of a dollar. Her mother, Faye Roberts, was an expert in canning foods and loved gardening; Faye also worked at a local florist and was well-known for her beautiful arrangements. Carolyn and her younger sister, Pat, would tell about their mother working well into the night to meet the demands of special occasions like Easter and high school prom nights.

When they lived near downtown Newport, she played tennis alongside her mother, winning matches against lunch-break players with an ease that belied her young age. When her parents moved to the “country,” Carolyn even wanted to walk the three miles downtown to play tennis. Sports attracted her to Milligan College where she participated in archery, basketball, bowling, softball, tennis, and volleyball.

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Her marriage to Duard Walker in 1947 was not just a union of hearts but a partnership in every sense. They were the first married couple to be crowned May King and Queen at Milligan. Her graduation in a mere three years was a testament to her intellect and determination, a trait that she carried with her throughout her life. Together, they embarked on a journey that took them from New York to Knoxville, weaving a tale of love, dedication, and shared passion for sports and music.

Returning to Milligan as Duard took on the mantle of Director of Athletics, Carolyn found her calling as the organist for Hopwood Christian Church, in addition to lending her musical talents to countless weddings and funerals over the decades. Her melodies became the backdrop to moments of joy and sorrow, her fingers dancing effortlessly over the keys, weaving emotions into every note. She not only loved playing music, but also loved singing and did so for years with her friends in Sweet Adelines.

But Carolyn’s legacy extended far beyond the church walls. As Duard coached various sports, Carolyn stood by his side, a pillar of strength and support. Whether it was helping coach the girls’ basketball team at Farragut High School in Knoxville, serving as President of the P.T.A. at Happy Valley Elementary, or being the driving force behind a new Senior Center in Johnson City, Carolyn’s commitment to her community knew no bounds.

Even in her leisure, Carolyn embraced life with an infectious enthusiasm, participating in bowling leagues and local tennis tournaments. She was extremely competitive as she enjoyed board games and card games with her family. Her humor, often laced with a hint of mischief, endeared her to all who crossed her path, making her the heart and soul of every gathering.

As the years unfurled like a tapestry woven with memories, Carolyn remained steadfast in her love for Duard, her family, and her community. Carolyn and Duard were married for 73 years (until he passed in 2020) and they had five children, all of whom graduated from Milligan (Cindy, Teresa, Buff, Gary and Tracy).

Her passing on April 4, 2024, left a void that could never be filled, but her spirit lives on in the countless lives she touched.

For Carolyn Belle Roberts Walker was more than a name inscribed on a gravestone; she was a beacon of hope, a symbol of resilience, and a testament to the enduring power of love. And as the sun sets, her legacy shines brightly, illuminating the hearts of all who were fortunate enough to know her.