Cover photo for Robert  Philip "Phil" Walker's Obituary
Robert  Philip "Phil" Walker Profile Photo
1930 Robert 2021

Robert Philip "Phil" Walker

November 21, 1930 — August 16, 2021


In the Lancaster community and throughout the world of family-owned shoe stores Phil Walker was a celebrity. Our community lost a very successful businessman and we lost our wonderful father when Dad died peacefully on August 16, 2021 surrounded by his loving family. The family is forever grateful to the Dominican Sisters of Peace, Mohun Health Care Center, especially the 4th floor employees, for the respect, dignity and loving care they provided Phil every day he was a resident there.

Robert Philip “Phil” Walker was born on November 21, 1930 in Somerset, Ohio. He was the 4th child of the late Audrey Grace Kinsel Walker and Joseph Daniel “Joe” Walker. Phil spent his years growing up in the house that his father, Joe, built on Gay St. in Somerset. With his brother Martin by his side they explored all that Perry County had to offer. Riding bikes, playing tag, hunting, fishing, gardening, swimming, and participating in Boy Scouts. Phil and Martin helped with the yearly hay harvest in New Lexington, Ohio, at their mom, Audrey’s, family farm. As a teenager Phil worked at the shoe store sweeping the floors and doing whatever he was asked to do and eventually he was taught how to repair shoes. While working there Phil learned the shoe business from his father Joe and his grandfather Philip Grant.

Phil attended Holy Trinity Elementary and High School in Somerset. Phil graduated from Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio, with a major in Business Administration. While there, he met the love of his life, Marilyn Ann Diedrich Walker, who was attending the College of Mount Saint Joseph in Cincinnati. They married in 1953 and Phil’s lifelong love affair with Marilyn lasted for 67+ years.

Phil served in the Korean Conflict between 1953 and 1955 as an Ensign (officer) in the U.S. Navy on a ship that supplied diesel and other supplies to the war ships fighting in the war. Phil was honorably discharged in 1955. The family, Marilyn, Phil, and daughters moved to Gay St. in Somerset, Ohio, and lived across the street from Phil’s parents. Phil joined his father Joe at Walker’s Shoe Store in Somerset. Phil’s ancestors had opened a shoemaker’s shop on the square in Somerset in 1836. The Walker’s family legacy in the shoe business in Ohio is 185 years old today and continues with the 6th generation to own the store, Melissa Walker, at Walker’s Shoe Center, 737 East Main St., Lancaster, Ohio 43130.

Phil ran the Somerset Store for about 5 years and then decided to open a second store in Lancaster, Ohio in 1960 and named it Phil Walker’s Shoe Center. With the opening of the second store in Lancaster in 1960, Phil and Marilyn and with four daughters moved into a house on Chestnut St. in 1961. As the 5th generation to own the store, Phil loved carrying on the legacy and success of his ancestors. He loved going to work and believed that being of service to his customers was the recipe that guaranteed success at the Shoe Center. The care, concern, energy and intelligence he brought to work created a positive and memorable experience for his employees and customers. Phil lived the values of honesty, respect, integrity, kindness, empathy, humor and love. This is what made him such a successful business owner and made him such a wonderful father.

Phil was very active in his community making him the consummate involved small and local business owner. He built lasting relationships and maintained strong bonds with so many different people through his involvement in the community and beyond. He was so in tune with his customers that he remembered their names even if it had been years since they had been in the store. A big joke in the family was that as the daughters reached dating age Phil “acted” as if he could not remember any of their boyfriend’s names.

Phil was a lifelong Rotarian, a member of the Lancaster Rotary, and sponsored many local events and fund-raising efforts. He was a member of and gave his time and attention to St. Mary Parish, St. Joseph Parish in Somerset, Veterans Day Parade in Somerset, Fairfield County Fair Day, National Shoe Retailers Association, Independent Shoe Retailers and their families from all corners of the U.S., Brothers of the Beard, tennis partners, fellow MBA students, fellow art students and teachers, Monarch Gallery Co-op, Herb Society, and many friends and fishing buddies.

In 1972 Phil and Marilyn built their dream house on acreage in Pleasant Township just outside Lancaster. Marilyn named the property Creeksong Farm. The home was designed by Marilyn’s brother Richard J. Diedrich, Architect, FAIA. The home was built by Schmelzer’s Construction Company, Don’s son Cort, became Phil’s son-in-law some years later.

Growing up Dad and Mom made sure we had many great vacations. We spent our summers at Buckeye Lake with Phil’s parents and at Lake Michigan with Marilyn’s parents. Phil and Marilyn and a group of Catholic friends purchased a farm in the Clear Creek area of the Hocking Hills and named it Koinia. At this special place there were many great meals-hikes-sing-alongsmasses and memorable times with good friends. A spectacular vacation occurred in 1978 for Mom and Dad’s 25th wedding anniversary. The whole family journeyed to Key West and took a fishing boat and a sailboat out to Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortuga Islands for a week. Snorkeling, fishing, camping, lots of sunshine and lots of fun was had by all.

Phil and Marilyn loved to travel. They had many memorable trips outside of the United States to Mexico, Spain, Holland, and other European locations. In his 40’s, Phil went back to school to get his Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) at The Ohio State University. Phil’s MBA thesis involved traveling to eight different countries in Europe and meeting with and learning from business owners. After Phil received his MBA, he taught classes at Capitol University, Ohio University and the OU Teaching in Prison program. After raising the family Phil and Marilyn got very involved in their art. In his 50’s Phil tried his hand at clay sculpting and discovered he was a natural. He developed a love of clay and was very talented and creative. Marilyn enjoyed her painting. They took many trips to attend art classes and enjoyed Elder Hostels centered around art. They participated in art shows with the 3 art community in Central Ohio and regularly had their art displayed in the Lancaster Library, local businesses and other places.

Phil is survived by and was loved by his five daughters and their spouses: Mary Catherine “Katie” Rose Walker (Phil Rose); Rita Elizabeth (Beth) Walker Bryant (Michael); Marilyn Ann “Lyn” Walker (Steve Whittaker); Clair Colette Walker Ebert; Melissa Grace Walker (Cortland Schmelzer).

Phil cherished his ten grandchildren: Meredith (Mikael) Schilb, Philip (Jennifer) Shrider, Daniel (Andria) Ebert, Rachel (Drew) Puttick, Nathan (Katie) Ebert, Audrey Schmelzer, Hugh Schmelzer, Isabel Whittaker Walker, Ewan Whittaker Walker and granddog Cap. Phil greatly enjoyed his eight great grandchildren: Damon, Lilly, Brooke, Camille, Judah, Vivian, Coral and Eli.

Phil’s brother Martin Walker; brothers-in-law Richard Diedrich (Shirl Pessl) and Bernard (Patti) Diedrich. Many nieces, nephews, cousins and extended family-both Diedrich and Walker.

Phil was preceded in death by his wife Marilyn of 67+ years, grandson Lewis Schmelzer, his parents, sisters Rita Elizabeth Walker “Sr. Roserita” (Dominican), Mary Charlotte Woodyard (Richard), son in law Mark Ebert, sister in law Mary Lou Walker and brother in law Don Diedrich.

Phil had a great sense of humor, was a lively storyteller, and was the life of the party. He was a brilliant wordsmith and his puns are legendary. He and Marilyn were amazing hosts and effortlessly welcomed extended family, friends and guests into their homes for parties, sing-alongs, dinners, vacations and visits. Countless customers, employees, friends of Phil and friends of his five daughters have stated that Phil is one of their all-time favorite people. As Phil’s 90th birthday approached Walker’s Shoe Center posted a message about the birthday in the store and on their social media accounts. Phil received over 125 birthday cards from people that knew him in every aspect of his life.

When we thought about writing about Dad we wondered how we would ever remember everything we could say about him. As his loving daughters we are finding it difficult to articulate what he meant to us and our families. His influence both-public and personalbecomes even more profound when we reflect on all he meant to family, friends and the communities he interacted with. He was so comfortable with who he was. We, his daughters, mourn with the very essence of mourning the loss of two connected but separate beings: Phil Walker of Phil Walker’s Shoe Center and our dad. He will be lovingly remembered in the world of family-owned shoe stores and in the local community, but this is not what made this largerthan-life man great. He was already great as our dad.

In lieu of flowers please donate to the Phil Walker Community Fund, c/o the Fairfield County Foundation, 162 East Main St., Lancaster, Ohio 43130 or the Dominican Sisters of Peace, 2320 Airport Dr., Columbus, Ohio 43219 in memory of Phil Walker. A celebration party of Phil and Marilyn’s lives will be held in the future.

A Memorial Mass will be held Thursday, September 2, 2021 at 10:30 a.m. at St. Mary of the  Assumption Catholic Church with Fr. Craig Eilerman as Celebrant.

Arrangements are being handled by the FRANK E. SMITH FUNERAL HOME AND CREMATORY, LANCASTER, OHIO 43130.

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Service Schedule

Past Services

Memorial Mass

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Starts at 10:30 am (Eastern time)

St. Mary of the Assumption Church


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