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Barbara Benson Walker

03/26/2020 - 06/20/1934

It is with deep sadness and amazement that we announce the passing of our incredible mother, Barbara Amussen Benson Walker on March 26, 2020.  We thought and hoped that she would live forever through sheer, cheerful force of will.  Mom passed away peacefully at her daughter Heather and Dr. Paul R. Sandstrom’s home in Mesa, AZ surrounded by her loved ones singing her into the heavenly choir at the age of 85.  She was joyfully greeted as she passed through the veil of mortality by her beloved husband, the late Dr. Robert H. Walker (Bob), her parents and loved ones.

Barbara will never be forgotten by her posterity:  her five “perfect” children, Flora (Larry) Spackman of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, Heather (Paul) Sandstrom of Mesa, Arizona, Laurel (David) Udall of Lindon, Utah, Robert (Joni) Walker of Honolulu, Hawaii and Bountiful, Utah, and Holly (Karl) Tilleman of Phoenix, Arizona.  She and Bob are blessed with 25 “Awesome Blossom” grandchildren:  Beth (Stuart) Thompson, Mary Anne (Nelson) Kroeker, Sara (Dustin) Johnson, Holly (David) Melchin, Grant (Chelsa) Spackman, Erica (Alan) Soelberg, Ryan (Karen) Sandstrom, Alexis (BJ) Gremillion, Walker (Lauren) Sandstrom, Ashlyn (Brady) Fenn, Barbara Jo (Garrett) Hatch, Christine (Rock) Hull, Robert (Brian) Matheny, Rachel (Jon) Hughes, Janelle (Kyle) Palmer, Louisa (Hayden) Clasby, Derek (Amanda) Walker, Justin (Tatum) Walker, McKenna (Austin) Bush, Jacob Walker, Karl B. (Jessica) Tilleman, Daniel (Becca) Tilleman, Mary (Brandon) Caywood, Michael (Julie) Tilleman and Sarah Tilleman. Barbara adored each and every one of their 52 brilliant great-grandchildren (with four more percolating in utero) and while Barbara would love to have each one named, it will take up far too much room. She is also survived by her three beloved sisters, Beverly Parker, Bonnie (Lowell) Madsen, Beth (David) Burton, and sister-in-law, May Benson.

She was predeceased by her devoted and brilliant husband, her adored parents, her protective and loving older brothers, Reed and Mark Benson, sister-in-law, Lela Benson, and brother-in-law, James Parker.

Barbara was born June 20, 1934, the eldest daughter of President Ezra Taft and Flora Benson, the third of six children.

Barbara was born in Boise, ID when her father was working for the State of Idaho as an agricultural county agent.  When Barbara was four years old, the Benson family moved to Washington, DC. (for the first time.) In 1943, her father was called to be an Apostle in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  This necessitated the family’s move to Salt Lake City, Utah where Mom resided until her marriage.  Mom’s childhood was spent in an idyllic family.  Growing up with siblings Reed, Mark, Beverly,  Bonnie and Beth, their home was filled with love, learning, laughter and lullabies.

Barbara graduated from East High School in Salt Lake City where she served as President of the East High School Associated Girls Association and the Seminary Student body Vice-President.  She attended the University of Utah for one year where she served as the freshman class Vice President.  When her parents moved back to Washington, DC for her Dad to serve in US President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s cabinet as Secretary of Agriculture, it was decided (not by Mom!) that she needed to attend BYU.  After much “discussion”, Mom acquiesced and left the U of U for BYU.  She ended up loving her three years at BYU where she studied Home Economics.  She was voted “friendliest girl on campus” (WHAT?!!!! Of course!!!) and she dazzled as the BYU Homecoming Queen in 1954.  She worked at Deseret Book during the summer months. She later served on the National BYU Alumni Board.

Barbara was unforgettable!  Her personality was bigger than life; she literally filled every room!  She had a joyful, commanding presence and a megawatt smile adorned with bright red lipstick which she was eager to share on unsuspecting cheeks!  She was the most fun, upbeat, optimistic, encouraging, generous, positive and grateful person – ever! She could find the good in any situation.  Mom’s vehicle of choice was a convertible which she drove with panache and style – even in the middle of harsh Canadian winters, with kids piled in the back seat covered in blankets!  As a powerful force of nature, she used her talents for awesome!  One granddaughter called her a “human Disneyland!”  Her enthusiastic personality made her the consummate hostess, as generous with her hospitality as she was with her talents. She loved Christmas with all her heart and decorated her homes to the max.  The Walker home was open for any meeting, fireside, and party, complete with delicious refreshments.  She was friends with everyone she met.  She loved the quote:  “Blessed are they who have the gift of making friends; the power of going out of one’s self and appreciating whatever is noble and loving in another.”  (Thomas Hughes 1822-1896) As Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said recently, “Everyone needs a dose of Barbara Walker every day!”

One can not think of Barbara Benson Walker without remembering her deep love of music and her powerful coloratura soprano voice which she most generously shared right up until the week before she passed away. She started singing lessons at the age of 13, and from then on, she trilled her way through life!  The last two weeks of mortality, she was surrounded constantly by her family as they sang to her in person and through video calls – and she sang with us!

Barbara’s first calling in the church was ward chorister at the age of 8, accomplished by standing on a chair, in the Chevy Chase ward in Bethesda, Maryland.  She took piano and voice lessons for many years.  Her singing accomplishments were prodigious, but to name a few of the highlights:  She adored quartet singing for years with her dear friends, Carma Florence, Hope Swendsen and Cathy Whitehead.  She sang the soprano lead in several operas in Calgary, including The Impressario and The Merry Widow at the Jubilee Auditorium, and she soloed personally for two presidents of the United States, President Dwight D. Eisenhower and President Richard Nixon and their wives.  In Barbara’s words, “A highlight of my musical life was to be requested by President Gordon B. Hinckley and President Thomas S. Monson to sing a solo at the solemn assembly at General Conference in the Tabernacle when my dearly beloved father, President Ezra Taft Benson, was sustained by the entire church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as the prophet of the Lord, prophet, seer and revelator on April 6, 1986.  I sang one of my dear father’s favourite, “O Divine Redeemer” by Charles Gounod, accompanied on the Tabernacle organ by Robert Cundick.”   With all her musical accomplishments, Mom wrote in her personal history, “My most important role is that of wife and mother and singing lullabies to my children.” We are so grateful for the nightly lullabies she sang to us every night right before our prayers.

Mom and Dad were married in the Salt Lake City temple on 29 September 1955.  They were introduced by their parents.  Dad was an accomplished surgeon in Calgary.  Mom was on tour – and soloing – with the BYU Madrigal Singers when the choir came to Calgary to perform.  Grandpa and Grandma Benson flew to Calgary from Washington, DC and Grandma Fannye Walker drove up from Raymond, Alberta to facilitate this momentous introduction backstage.  After the concert, their mothers accompanied doctor Dad on a house call.  As Dad later said, “Our mothers  were in the backseat planning the wedding and I was in the front seat trying to remember her name!” Mom moved to Calgary and their happy union lasted 43 years until Bob’s death in 1998, although through their temple covenants, we are deeply grateful they are sealed together for eternity.

Of all Mother’s roles and talents, the one she poured her heart and soul into was that of being an excellent mother.  We children lovingly refer to her as our “divine drill sergeant.”  Mom and Dad had exceptionally high standards for us in everything we did.  And we did a lot.  As children, besides our school work and church service, we were put in almost every lesson and activity available to children growing up in Calgary:  piano, organ, swimming, diving, scuba diving, synchronized swimming, tennis, badminton, figure skating/hockey, hula dancing, ballet, Scottish dancing, art lessons, horseback riding, hiking, choir, typing, sewing, piano and vocal trios, swim team, volleyball, basketball, rugby and football. We are grateful for the hours Mom spent driving us everywhere; we had fun honing our skills (or lack thereafter) especially at The Glencoe Club.  Of all the lessons, piano and organ were probably where Mom’s tenaciousness was most focused. In hindsight, we are intensely grateful for the skills we learned. Because of Mom and Dad’s intense encouragement and support, all of their children received at least one university degree.  Extended family was also incredibly important to Mom and Dad and their home was always open to our sweet cousins for however long the need. Precious family relationships were made and solidified as time was spent at the Raymond and Calgary Stampede, and at their homes in Midway, Utah, Mesa, Arizona, and Waterton Lakes National Park.  Dad and Mom felt strongly that Sunday dinners were a sacred family bonding time, and the decades-long tradition of Mom’s Alberta roast beef Sunday dinners were always a highlight of the week, where tummies were filled and where we all became best friends.

Mom served continually in the community and in the church.  While she said she loved living in Canada, she had a ferocious love of the United States of America. The American flag was always flying – even in Canada.  She recently proclaimed that her true loves were her faith, family, freedom, food, and Fox News!  She lead the music in her congregation, served as ward music chairman and directed the choir for literally decades.  Every music calling in the church had her name on it.  In addition, she taught in Sunday School, Primary, Young Women and Relief Society and had many leadership positions on the ward and stake levels.  Her lasting legacy was one of a loving, faithful and consistent Visiting Teacher. She loved the sisters she was asked to minister to, never missing a monthly visit while bearing delicious treats for 60+ years. She was a proud member of the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers and her Salt Lake Fine Arts Group. The crowning calling in her life of service was her weekly assignment in the Salt Lake City temple – for 19 years – working in the Youth Center.  She loved tending and singing with the children ages newborn to 18 years old as they waited to be sealed to their parents. She has been an enthusiastic and fearless missionary her whole life!  She loves the gospel of Jesus Christ and strived daily to serve others the Lord had put in her path.  She was so proud of the missionary force of her children and grandchildren who have served full-time missions, including her children who have been currently serving:  daughter, Laurel and Dave Udall as Public Affairs missionaries in Los Angeles, California and son, Robert and Joni Walker as Mission President and companion in the Honolulu Hawaii mission.  Her missionary successes were prodigious.

Mom was a faithful and devoted wife to her sweetheart, Bob.  She was incredibly supportive of Dad’s professional pursuits, including moving her growing family to Edmonton, Alberta and Cleveland, Ohio for Dad to become a cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon.  We children never heard Mom complain when Dad was busy with his constant church callings, including the first Bishop of the Calgary 5th ward, President of the Calgary Stake and Regional Representative.  Indeed, they served the Lord valiantly side-by-side.  When Dad became ill with congestive heart failure, she nurtured him constantly during the two years preceding his death.  After Dad died, she sold the beloved family home on Prospect Avenue in Calgary and moved to Salt Lake City, Utah where she lived until two years before her death.  She always said she loved Canada and being close to daughter, Flora and Larry and their children, but her heart truly belonged to Utah.  She thrived in Salt Lake City, surrounded by many of her progeny, siblings and friends.  She loved being in close proximity to daughter, Laurel and Dave Udall, and son, Robert and Joni Walker, and their families in Utah.   She spent over 20 years attending her grandchildren’s concerts, games, and graduations during her widowed years.  Mom attended every grandchild’s missionary farewell, homecoming and marriage – with Dad looking down from heaven.  In 2004, Bishop Bruce R. Christensen of the Salt Lake City 21st ward sent this birthday greeting to Mom:  Dear Barbara, How blessed we are to have you as a member of the 21st ward.  Your great gift of music lifts our spirits each Sunday.  Your many selfless acts of kindness to those who need a lift show us how to serve.  You are a spiritual giant and a great Church treasure.  Thank you for being so thoughtful and kind to me personally.  Thank you for showing us how to raise such a strong, exemplary, eternal family.  I wish you the best of everything in the days ahead.”  After a mild stroke in 2018, Barbara moved to Mesa, Arizona to live with her daughter, Heather, and husband, Dr. Paul R. Sandstrom.

Mom’s last two years in Arizona were “heaven on earth!” as she reminded us every day. She sang constantly for two years straight, with her daughters accompanying her, having a song for every conversation.  She sang regularly in the Estate Groves ward choir with Heather.  The Primary children loved her as she sat next to Heather by the piano each week, singing her heart out.  One of her favourite things to do in Arizona was to attend the plays, concerts, recitals and sporting events of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She has been the ultimate cheerleader!  She loved Fridays with all her heart to be with her daughter, Holly – to go together to lunch and Mom’s hair and nail appointments, and spend time with Holly and Karl’s family.  There was nothing she loved better than to sing in the homes of her family members or cruise around with Heather in her convertible, singing at the top of her lungs!  As a family, we are eternally indebted to Heather and Paul and their family for their never-ending and constant service to Mom, willingly done with cheerful hearts and deep love.  We are so grateful for her “perfect pal,” Henrietta Moho, her devoted in-home care provider for the past two years.

A constant guiding force in Barbara’s life was her deep love of the Savior and the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.  She and Dad made every effort to make sure that their family was built upon upon a “sure foundation.”  Their consistency in family prayers, Family Home Evening, devotion to the Lord through their constant and diligent church service helped their children love the Lord as is evidenced by their children’s constant and energetic service in their various assignments.  “The abundant life noted in the scriptures is the spiritual sum that is arrived at by the multiplying of our service to others and by investing our talents in service to God and man.”  (Spencer W. Kimball) By this definition, Barbara has lived an “abundant life” to the fullest.  We know she is continuing to share her friendliness, her exuberant personality, her many talents and her unfailing testimony! The heavenly choirs just gained a supernal, spectacular soprano!

“And I soon go to the place of my rest, which is with my Redeemer; for I know that in him I shall rest.  And I rejoice in the day when my mortal shall put on immortality, and shall stand before him; then shall I see his face with pleasure, and he will say unto me: Come unto me, ye blessed, there is a place prepared for you in the mansions of my Father.” (Enos 1:27 from The Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ.)

Barbara’s funeral service will be broadcast on Friday, April 10 at 11:00 am (Arizona time.) Relatives and friends are invited to view Barbara’s funeral service by logging into

Please click the link below to join the webinar:
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/885582470

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Webinar ID: 885 582 470
International numbers available: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kJrfJmYcM

Internment will take place in the Benson family plot in Whitney, Idaho at a later date, tentatively scheduled for 20 June 2020 (her 86th birthday) when the world is hopefully a less topsy turvy place!

A Facebook page has been set up “Remembering Barbara Walker.”  We would appreciate if photos and memories can be posted of Barbara for her family.

Condolences

  • Kathy McKelvie

    Barbara Benson Walker was a powerful force for awesome for me and my family! I always called her ‘Sister Walker’, as I was so grateful to know that she and I were and always will be more than just friends… but really “Sisters”, in the eternal gospel of our Saviour Jesus Christ. From Sister Walker I learned life changing lessons on how to be a better wife and mother. Sister Walker was the ultimate good example to me of being a righteous daughter of God. To have someone such as Barbara Walker as a friend and a support changed my life for the better in more ways than can be listed here. Her influence in my life will stay with me eternally. In so many ways I try to emulate her example as a mother and friend and servant to build up the Lord’s Kingdom here on the earth. It gave me such joy to be able to share successes that I had in my life with someone who is so special to me. I am eternally blessed to know my ‘Sister Walker’, and am eternally grateful to have the friendship of her daughter Flora, as yet another force for awesome, in this earthly existence. I will miss you my friend Barbara Benson Walker, but have every card or letter you ever gave me and all my memories of all the love you shared so generously with me. I cannot help but break into a smile when I think of you my Beautiful Sister Barbara Benson Walker. You are “a treasure beyond measure” and “I love you, Mo-ore”. XXOO

  • My thoughts and prayers to all who are missing this wonderful woman. What a beautiful and full life she had. Surrounded by a lot of love. What a cherished inspiration she was to all who knew her!

  • I have fond memories of both Barbara and Robert Walker. As a young man about the age of 16, a friend of mine, (Jason Whitfield) , and I were looking for somewhere to play some basketball. It was a week night in the spring and we had tried two church buildings that were already in use. We were about to give up when Jason said, “ let’s go ask Walkers if we can use their backyard court”. We drive there and asked and were greeted by Barbara. She was so excited that we would ask and directed us to the gate to the yard. There was no discussion about food. We were there to play ball… well, not 20 minutes passed and she came to fence saying “come on in boys, the pizza is ready!” We went and spent the next hour watching the Flames play hockey with President Walker in the front room. During this time, we devoured two huge homemade pizzas that were made with a lot of love. Beautiful family!

  • Helen Schrade

    I’m so happy for Sister Walker. She will have such a wonderful reunion with President Walker, the others that have gone before. In the mean time, deepest condolences, to her family and friends on this side of the veil. A week or two back. You share a video of a family visiting Sister Walker in the hospital. And she said “ boo I’m still here “ it cracked me up. When it’s time for me to go, I want to leave with my funny bone in tacked , like Sister Walker . All the best y’all.

  • Cheryl Pierson Mathieson

    I remember attending a fireside when I was a small child in the a Walker home. We were welcomed by Sister Walker and each given a pair of slippers to put on. The memory that made an impact on me was I visited the 10th Ward in the early 1980s and sat next to Sister a Walker in Relief Society. She warmly welcomed me in her bigger than life way. What a friendly, loving woman! My sympathies to your families.

  • Your mom was amazing person. I thought she was like a movie star, but without the negative trappings. She just had that aura or confidence and love. I can’t claim to know her very well, but well enough that as I read your tribute I knew many stories and I am privileged to have known her and also your dad, whom I worked with in ICU at the Holy Cross Hospital. What an wonderful reunion they are having now! How great it is to have a strong testimony of the gospel and of eternal families, that makes this parting for you less daunting. Just a breathe away!

  • Diana L. Anderson

    She made me feel like her favorite person on earth (aside from her kids and grandkids and great grandkids, of course) But I have come to find out, she made everyone feel that way!!! God speed Sister Walker, until we meet again!

  • I have some great memories of your mother and father in Calgary from when I was a teenager. What great people! Sister Walker would never let anyone leave your home hungry even if it was midnight after a Saturday Night Dance at the Stake Center.

  • Maxine Moana-Tuwhangai

    Sincere condolences to you and your family Flora.

  • Sister Walker was a unique and wonderful lady. After my mission she coerced me into the ward choir. She wanted me to sing base, and those who sat beside me can testify that I sang notes that no one could identify. However, thanks to her encouragement I eventually learned the notes, and have enjoyed years of singing in ward and stake choirs, not necessarily to the pleasure of those who sang beside me, but years of loving gospel music. Thank you Sister Walker.

  • Kathryn Lennard Knowles

    My parents lived on the same street in Calgary for many years and were good friends. My father, Gordon Lennard, often said that Barbara was bigger than life itself. I have fond memories of Barbara with her long flowing gowns and her infectious smile. She and Dr. Walker made a terrific team.

  • Gregory R Harris

    When I was a young father in Calgary I asked Barbara the secret to raising such wonderful children, she didn’t refer to making sure they were constantly in lessons (!) But she did say “It’s not enough to just love them, you have to adore them!” She did and we did. Thanks Barbara we’ll miss you! Greg and Maryjoy Harris and Family

  • I am very sorry to hear of Sister Walker’s passing. As a member of the Calgary Alberta Stake since the early 80’s and then a member of Calgary 5th Ward, I had many opportunities to watch and converse with Sister Walker. She exuded so much joy! Such a positive, loving woman with a zest for life unlike anyone I have ever met! How someone could constantly smile like she did I’ll never know. What an exemplary life she lived! She will be sorely missed! My sincerest condolences to the Walker family!

  • I was visiting my good friend Jean Jaussi in SLC. Sister Jaussi and her husband Roland Jaussi had presided over the Irish mission when I joined the church. She was curious to know about my Stake President’s wife whom I mentioned was a daughter of President Benson. The Jaussis had served twice as Mission President and wife and in other capacities so she knew many general authorities. I described how Sister Walkers grandfather was a clock maker and she often wore clock earrings, click pendant and a clock handbag. I didn’t see Sister Jaussi for a very long time. When I did she related to me how she had seen Barbara Walker. I asked if she had been introduced because of her knowing so many General Authorities. She replied she hadn’t been introduced bit had merely seen Barbara Walker walking down a street in SLC. I was astounded and enquired as to how she knew her identity. Sister Jaussi simply put her hand to her ears and said, ‘Clock earrings, clock pendayabd clock handbag”. That was how she recognized her.

  • I was visiting with my friend Jean Jaussi in SLC. I commented to Sister Jaussi that my Stake President’s wife was Barbara Walker, daughter of now serving President Benson. I related to her how Sister Walker’s grandfather was a clock maker and that Sister Walker often wore clock earrings, clock pendant and clock handbag. I didn’t see Sister Jaussi for some time but on our next meeting she related how she had seen Sister Walker walking down the street of SLC. This aroused my curiosity, how did Sister Jaussi know this was Barbara Walker. Had she been introduced? As Sister Jaussi and her husband Roland Jaussi had served as mission presidents twice and in other capacities I figured she just knew her as she knew many General Authorities. Sister Jaussi just pointed to her ears and said, “Clock earrings, clock pendant and clock handbag.” This was how she came to recognize Barabara Walker walking down the street of SLC!!

  • Dwayne Hawryluk

    When first married, over forty years ago, Kathy and I were in the same ward as the Walkers for about a year, until we moved out of our apartment. For a few months until we left, I was assigned to have Robert as my junior companion for home teaching. I remember coming over to pick him up one day and being invited in for a few minutes until he was ready to go. The way Barbara fussed over me you’d have thought I was the prince of England! I found out later that she wasn’t going overboard to impress me; that was genuinely who she was, and that was how everybody was welcomed!

  • John and Jana Bilton

    Dear Walker family, we love and appreciate your mother so much. She was kind, giving, expressive in support, and always optimistic for us as individuals. She was a great example to me and Jana. She and Dr. Bob were so supportive of Jana and her parents while in Calgary. They invited us into their home, to their Cabin in Waterton and to many events related to a church and other. On a personal note I was so encouraged by Sister Walker to attend BYU and be a roommate to Rob, I am sure without her encouragement and push I would not have attended BYU and had that wonderful experience. We are grateful for all the Walker family and we are so thankful to Barbara for her love, support and testimony. Love John and Jana Bilton.

  • Carol and Doris Salmon

    We so enjoyed being able to connect for your Mother’s service. I was in a virtual meeting for part of it, but my Mom (Doris Salmon) was able to watch it all in Calgary. We loved hearing more about Barbara. It made me smile hearing about her bigger than life personality, and her zest to make people feel good. We both feel this world needs more Barbaras right now. But then, we thought of her children and grandchildren and know through all of you, the world will be just fine!
    Thank you for sharing this tender family gathering with us. May you feel comfort, peace and joy as you reflect on the goodness of your Mom, and look forward to that great eternal family gathering!

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