A National Tragedy

The Story of One SSA Employee

Package Deal:
Two SSAers--Together in Life, Separated by Death

(reprinted from OASIS, June 1995)

Walker photo

They met in 1985 while working in the Southeastern Program Service Center. She was a secretary; he was a benefit authorizer. "I knew when I saw him that he was the one for me," said Judy Walker. "He had a wonderful voice, and I liked his confident walk. So I asked him out for dinner." That dinner was the first step to the altar for Judy and Bob Walker. They married a year later.

In 1988, a pilot teleservice center opened in Birmingham, Ala. Bob and Judy accepted positions as technical assistant and teleservice rep, respectively. Then, in 1989, they both went to help open the Albuquerque TSC. "We were a package deal," said Judy " While at the Albuquerque TSC, Bob and I helped paint a mural depicting hot air balloons on the wall in the main area. It's still there today."

To further his SSA career, Bob wanted to get claims experience. So both Walkers applied for claims rep positions. "Bob was selected for the Oklahoma City DO," said Judy -- "To go with him, I took a downgrade to a service rep. Then this past December, I was selected for a claims rep position. I started a class at the Dallas Regional Training Center in February. "I had an apartment there, and Bob and I would visit on most weekends."

It was while she was attending class that Judy heard about the bomb blast at the federal building in Oklahoma City. She flew home on the first available flight. "I didn't realize the magnitude of the blast until I got into the airport and saw the TV coverage," Judy said. "When I saw the building, I knew that everyone did not get out." Judy and a friend went from hospital to hospital trying to find Bob. "Bob had had heart surgery last June," Judy said. "So I knew he needed his daily medication. Each day that went by was harder and harder. We kept hoping there was a chance he would make it." Bob's mother, sister and brother came from Florida to wait with Judy Three of their children from previous marriages also arrived from out of state. They all spent a lot of time at the center established for the families of victims. Finally, on May 2, almost two weeks after the blast, rescuers found Bob's body in the rubble of the building that had once housed the DO.

"It's been hard," said Judy. "But the agency has been wonderful to me. Everyone has offered support." "Bob was well known throughout the Birmingham and Albuquerque TSCs," Judy continued. "It was comforting to find the many friends who attended the memorial service. just their physical presence was important to us."

Bob was buried in Leeds, Ala., about 20 miles east of Birmingham. "That's where we always called home," said Judy. Bob was born in Jacksonville, Fla., in 1942. He attended the University of Florida. He was an Eagle Scout and active in scouting for 46 years. He was a Mason and a Shriner, performing fund-raising activities to benefit the burned and crippled children's fund. Bob also served as assistant district commissioner and unit commissioner for the Will Rogers District in Oklahoma City. He joined SSA in 1980.

Judy reminisced about how Bob enjoyed working on his computer at home. "We also loved to just jump in the car and travel across the states sightseeing," she said. "We had recently purchased a motorhome and were looking forward to using it for family reunions and vacations."

Bob is survived by one son, three stepsons, one stepdaughter, and 12 grandchildren. "Recently, when I attended the funeral of co-worker Mike Thompson, I finally saw many of my co-workers," Judy told OASIS. "They were the most beautiful faces I have ever seen. I lost Bob, I lost many friends, but I'm very thankful for the ones I didn't lose."