by Skye K. Richendrfer, November 14, 2013
We have spent the better part of the past 18 months actively engaged in raising funds for the new Littlefield Celtic Cultural Center (LCCC) here in Mount Vernon, WA. Along the way, I’ve been amazed by the generosity of so many people who share our passion for all things Celtic! Donations large and small have been made—folks have connected with this idea in a way that frankly far exceeded my expectations.
The Reverend John Francis Walker of LaConner, WA, is a retired Episcopalian minster, a good friend of mine, and a longtime supporter of CAF. In his mid-80s, I try to see John at least once a month for a visit, the occasional tune, and wonderful discussions about all things Scottish and Celtic. Fred Morrison, on one of his several visits out from Scotland, graciously made time to visit John with me and much to John’s delight, had a few tunes on the Reelpipes and low d whistle.
John attended the very first Skagit Valley Highland Games in 1995, and has been to many of our events over the past 20 years. His enthusiasm for our organization and projects is infectious! A while back he mentioned that he had some things that “needed to be part of the new Littlefield Cultural Center,” and asked if I might come out for a visit. My curiosity aroused, I wondered exactly what it was that he had in mind.
To say I returned from a visit with a treasure trove of items for the new Center is a profound understatement! To begin, John gave us his extensive collection of Scottish, Irish and Celtic books (some dating from the mid-1800s), to initiate a library collection to share with others. There were also large numbers of traditional music CDs and DVD movies on all aspects of Celtic music, history and culture. John’s generous gift of these items represents a fantastic start to a library that will help make the Center an even more interesting place to visit.
And as if THAT weren’t enough, John also had several instruments to pass along for instructional workshops at the new Celtic Center, including several penny whistles, two guitars, a bohdran (Celtic drum), and even a working set of bagpipes!
Perhaps most impressive, John also wanted CAF to have his Claymore (Scottish great sword) and a targe (shield) for displaying at the new facility. He also donated a stunning dirk (long thrusting dagger) to CAF that will be used as part of the “Address to the Haggis” ceremony at each annual Robert Burns suppers in coming years.
In the coming months as we construct the new LCCC and figure out the many interior design details, having these items to incorporate into the facility is really exciting to think about.
Thanks to our good friend John Walker, for this thoughtfulness and generosity in supporting the Celtic Arts Foundation.
Originally from Philadelphia, John Walker served in the US Navy from 1950-1954 during the Korean Conflict, after which he returned to academic pursuits receiving degrees from Temple University and the Philadelphia Divinity School of the Episcopal Church. John was ordained into the priesthood on November 5, 1960. He entered the US Navy Chaplain Corps in 1962, with duty assignments in many parts of the world, including Vietnam. His final assignment was as Senior Chaplain, Naval Air Station, Whidbey Island, WA, retiring from active duty on November 1, 1981 having achieved the rank of Commander. John continued to provide pastoral care for three parishes in Washington State for several years, including Saint James Church in Sedro Woolley, WA where the 40th anniversary of his ordination service was held November 5, 2000. I was invited to surprise John at that retirement service with some Highland Pipe tunes—a perfect tribute for someone who so loves all things Celtic!
John and his wife, Dr. Jean Ann Wharton (originally of Broadstairs, Kent, England) reside in LaConner, Washington.