By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

Walker spent a lifetime in newspapers

Molly Walker
Molly Walker

Ours was only her second newspaper in a nearly 40-year career in journalism.

She grew up in a newspaper family. Her parents, Robert and Betty Van Leer, both graduated from the University of Missouri School of Journalism, widely considered the nation’s best. They owned several papers on the Southern Oregon Coast over the years, including the Coquille Valley Sentinel and Port Orford News.

Walker’s first job was at another weekly owned by the family, the Curry County Reporter in Gold Beach.

Initially, she rolled and developed film and printed pictures as the darkroom technician. Later, she spent time working in every department, from circulation and advertising to news, at some point.

She worked with her parents for 20 years. Then she and her husband, Jim, bought the paper and ran it for another 10 years.

They sold the Reporter in 2007 and moved to Salem to be closer to their four grandchildren. At the time, Jim was president of the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association, and he joined the N-R staff as sports columnist in order to retain qualification for that state leadership position.

Subsequently, Molly joined the News-Register staff, initially as an editorial assistant, later as business editor and religion and social issues reporter.

During her time at the News-Register, Walker covered efforts by San Martin de Porres parishioners to keep open the Dayton mission and social issues such as homeless counts and efforts to feed the hungry. She wrote about senior events and the arrival and departure of local pastors. She penned feature stories, such as one about a man who figured out how to cut his large lawn by hooking a number of mowers together.

She won several awards over the years, including one for a business feature on Savage Apps, a local tech company, and another in the business news category for a story about credit card companies taking users to court.

Co-workers remember her willingness to take on any assignment, her sense of humor and her friendly demeanor. When the company’s entire staff took a vote one year, Walker was named most helpful.

“Molly was an absolute delight to work with,” said Managing Editor Steve Bagwell. “She was the sunny, upbeat can-do type. She brightened the days and lightened the loads of everyone around her.”

Walker, 56, joined her husband in retiring from the newspaper business in October. The intent was to free more time for them to pursue another passion, involvement in Rotary International.

Nominated for membership by her father, Walker became one of the first women to join the Gold Beach Rotary Club in 1987. Her husband followed her into Rotary 10 years later.

His election to the governorship of Rotary’s District 5100, which promised to involve a great deal of travel, is what prompted them to leave the paper. Walker said she loved her job and was reluctant to give it up, but was looking forward to accompanying her husband to foreign destinations like Brazil, as well as various places in the U.S.

The Walkers continued as members of the McMinnville Rotary Club after leaving the News-Register. They hosted students from Poland, Brazil, France and other countries through Rotary’s exchange program, and traveled to South Africa to visit one of their exchange daughters in her home country.

Another of Walker’s interests was making beaded jewelry, a hobby she picked up from her late mother. She made many beaded necklaces and sets of earrings for friends and family members.

In addition to her husband of more than 30 years, she is survived by four sons and several grandchildren.

Memorial services will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, April 11, at Bethany Lutheran Church, 94190 Fifth St.  in Gold Beach. Arrangements are under the direction of Virgil T. Golden Mortuary, 605 Commercial St. S.E. in Salem.

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