September 6, 1936 - February 14, 2014
Kenneth E. Walkup was born in Tarkio, MO to Virgil and Ruth (Currie) Walkup on September 6, 1936. He completed his primary and secondary education in Tarkio MO and attended the Tarkio College for one year. Following a summer experience with the Air Force National Guard, Kenneth changed his life direction by first marrying Shirley Ann Kemerling on October 23, 1955, and then enlisting in the Air Force in November of 1955.
Over the next 20 years, Kenneth ultimately attained the rank of Master Sergeant. Due to his specialized training in airborne weapon systems, Kenneth and Shirley found themselves being frequently transferred between military installations across the nation, and as far away as Alaska and Germany. Despite the long absences from one another due to temporary duty assignments, Kenneth and Shirley managed to find time to establish a family of 5 children; Robert, Michael, Teresa, Laurie and Stephen.
During his military career, Kenneth took great pride in his service to the nation, which ranged from the Cold War tensions of the Cuban missile crisis, to combat zone experience at Bien Hoa (Saigon) Air Force Base during the Viet Nam conflict. In the course of his career, he received multiple honors, including three Air Force Commendations, the Viet Nam Service medal and campaign ribbon, the National Defense Ribbon, and 2 Presidential Unit Citations.
He always considered that the high point of his military career was his posting to Germany, where he had occasion to train members of the German, Greek and Spanish air forces. This foreign assignment stoked within Kenneth a love for travel and experiencing different cultures and people that remained with him the rest of his life. If Germany was the high point of his military career, then Kenneth always considered his final assignment, as NCOIC (Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge) of the B-52 weapons section at Grand Forks AFB in North Dakota, to be the low point. It was at this time that he withdrew his name from promotion consideration and retired from the Air Force in 1975, after 20 years of service.
After retiring from the military, the Walkup family relocated to Tarkio where they faced the novel prospect of being in a single location for an extended time. Kenneth returned to farming with his father, and only retired again shortly before his death on February 14, 2014. During their time in Tarkio, Kenneth and Shirley built a home and completed the task of raising their family. The kids ultimately married and established families of their own. Robert (Ruth) and Stephen (Mindy) followed career opportunities in other cities, Terry and Laurie (Harold) remained locally, and Michael (Tracy) continued the family farming tradition of working with his father until his untimely death in 1991.
If Shirley was charged with the task of holding things together during Kenneth’s military service, then he reciprocated in kind for her during her struggle with cancer, which claimed her life in 2003. After her death, Kenneth for the first time in many years found himself alone. Yet, he was not destined to remain that way, and was granted a second chance at happiness by marrying Joyce Sutter in 2009. Not only did he gain a spouse, but also an extended family on her side. During the last four plus years of his life, Kenneth and Joyce travelled broadly, both domestically and internationally, and indulged their shared passion for pets.
While rarely overt in his spiritual beliefs, Kenneth became more reflective as his health slowly declined. His faith is perhaps best attested by his own lack of fear in facing his own mortality. Even as he received a negative prognosis, he jokingly commented that the family would need to keep the funeral director on speed dial. Above all, he expressed gratitude for all the experiences and lessons of his life, which was full and eventful by almost any measure. Kenneth left this life quietly and in the presence of loved ones who celebrate his life and the cherished memories and lessons he has bequeathed to us.
Besides his parents Kenneth was preceded in death by wife, Shirley Walkup, son, Michael J. Walkup and grandson, Daniel Walkup. Survivors include his wife, Joyce, Tarkio; children, Robert Walkup and his wife, Ruth, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Teresa Walkup, Laurie Vander Plaats and husband, Harold, all of Tarkio, Stephen Walkup and his wife, Mindy, Wentzville, Missouri, Heather Olson and her husband, Jeff, Tarkio, Jason Sutter and his wife, Tina, Platte City, Missouri, Holly Huntley and her husband, Jeremy, Rock Port, Missouri; grandchildren, Kevin Walkup, Brianna Walkup, Alan Walkup, Amber Walkup, Trevor Walkup, Andrew Walkup, Reid Sutter, Jack Sutter, Cayden Criger; daughter-in-law, Tracy Walkup, Boonville, Missouri; brother, David Walkup and his wife, Peggy, Cleveland, Tennessee and nieces and nephews.