by Karen Mehall Philips - Tuesday, March 4, 2014
My friend Bob Walker was so excited the day he launched Slayer Crossbows. It seemed he’d gotten the crossbow bug overnight and, true to his promise, found a way to deliver a high-performance line for hunters at every skill level at a price that wouldn’t break the bank—all in the name of innovation and helping to bring families together in the great outdoors.
I first met Bob in my buddy Ray Eye’s outdoor writer turkey camp in the 1990s. I was doing public relations for NRA and was the newcomer in the group so he walked over and, with shining, smiling eyes and outstretched hand, said, “Hi, Karen, I’m Bob. I already know all about you. I love the NRA and I’m so glad you’re here.” How’s that for a warm welcome? As everyone took turns gravitating to his high-on-life enthusiasm, I finally realized he was the Bob Walker, the big outdoor-industry innovator who had left his audiology practice in 1989 to make a difference for hunters by launching Walker’s Game Ear. As a fellow hunter, he wanted to create a device that not only protected our ears from gunshots afield but that amplified the high frequency and often barely audible sounds of wild game as they moved around us in the woods.
Bob and I were instant friends, as was the case with everyone he met. Many hunts, trade show events, Christmas cards and birthday get-togethers later, Bob decided to sell his company. Retirement never crossed his mind as his new goal was to launch other new products by starting Sportsman Outdoor Strategies (SOS). If there was a need for a new hunting product and any chance it could be created, Bob would make it a reality—hence SOS’ Slayer Crossbows. Bob was all about sharing his hunting tips and tactics with fellow hunters and celebrating his love of hunting so it was no surprise his next step was to launch Sportsman Outdoor Strategies TV.
Obviously,Bob never slowed down—except to go to Disney World. When he heard Mom had never been there, the next day we were planning a trip. “I’m a big kid,” he’d say as Mom and I struggled to hit every ride on his list and vowed to visit every country at Epcot Center. “Life’s too short, Karen and Mom,” he’d say, adding, “Karen, you work too much. You need to go to Disney more.” It was his favorite place outside of the home he and wife Karen shared in Pennsylvania—“Walker’s Mountain”—where he hunted and fished with family and friends when he wasn’t making new friends on his worldwide outdoor adventures.
The last time I saw Bob and Karen was at my wedding to Phil Philips last June. Bob had beaten leukemia after a bone marrow transplant and was living life to the fullest again. Then in December he got a virus that settled in his lungs. With his immune system so weak, he got the flu and then pneumonia. Last Tuesday, Feb. 25, Karen called to say my friend was gone. He was 62.
Today as Phil and I drive to Bob Walker’s service, we know we’ve lost one of the best friends we will ever have. I silently promise myself I will try to live as Bob did: Celebrate life every day, hunt as often as possible, be a big kid and make sure those I treasure always know it. The next time my bow and I are in a treestand and I’m 12 feet closer to God, I’m going to pray and ask Him to please get Bob’s attention—you know, God, the one with the shiny, smiling eyes—and tell him I miss him.
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