James Michael Walker had a towering presence in both body and heart. He was the epitome of a hero, kind, strong and always willing to lend a helping hand.
On Oct. 16, 2011, Walker was struck by a car while crossing a Bay Shore street. He passed away at the age of 26 at Southside Hospital on Oct. 21 after remaining in critical condition.
More than 100 people attended the “James Walker Memorial Ceremony and Tree Dedication” on Friday outside the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine (NYCOM), where Walker attended.
“I told James that if he could find five good friends in life then he was a lucky man and he did more than 10 times that,” said father Phil Walker, 54.
Walker graduated with honors from MacArthur High School in 2003. He chose to continue his academic studies at Boston University, earning numerous awards and honors.
After graduating from BU in 2007, James went on to pursue a career in medicine at NYCOM where he "served as the face of the school."
Linda Darroch-Short, the director of Student Life at NYCOM, dedicated the memorial stones that are placed under the tree to Walker. One stone depicts a favorite quote of Walker’s from Willy Wonka: “If you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it. Anything you want to, do it. Want to change the world? There’s nothing to it.” The second stone dedicates the tree in loving memory of Walker, illustrating him as a “compassionate friend and mentor to all.”
“Kind. Thoughtful. Caring. That was James,” Darroch-Short said. “If you asked him for help, he didn’t ask why. He just helped, often doing much more than you even asked for.”
Dr. Robert Hill, Chair of the Anatomy department and one of Walker’s professors, deemed Walker as a natural leader.
“James gained the respect of others simply by respecting them first,” he said.
Fellow students read “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost, and an excerpt from “Friendship” by Henry David Thoreau, who was one of Walker’s favorite poets. Long stemmed roses were placed under the tree at the close of the ceremony.
As a final act of remembrance, Walker’s father Phil released several butterflies into the sky that signified the beauty of nature and the life legacy of a remarkable man who will never be forgotten.
“I told Phil, maybe God put us together because he knew he was going to take James,” said Walker’s stepmother Maureen, 56.
A beautiful and incredibly touching ceremony, the Walkers said they are eternally grateful for the many honors and events being held to remember James.