About

Evelyn Gertrude Large - Walker

October 13, 1899
March 26, 1976

 

Bell Plain, KS home 1910
The Large home in Belle Plain, KS

Born Evelyn Large in the southern Kansas town of Belle Plain, she was the middle sibling (her older sister was Mildred and a younger brother James, Jr.).  James Large, her father, was an insurance salesman, Justice of the Peace, and town councilman. Gertrude's maternal grandmother, Estella Davis, was the first white child born in Sumner County when Kansas was still a territory. Gertrude was stricken with polio at the age of 5 and was sent to Saint Louis for recovery where she was encouraged to play the piano as a form of physical therapy. Gertrude became an accomplished student with a passion for literature, most notably the classics and Greek mythology. Gertrude graduated from high school in 1917 and started teaching in a rural one room school house in Sumner County.

 

 

 

Gertrude and John, 1927Gertrude met and eventually married John Raymond Walker, Senior, a former Santa Fe Railway employee and a civil engineer for the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) in a simple yet dignified ceremony in 1928 at her sister’s home in Wellington, KS. A year later their only child, a son, John Raymond Walker, Jr. (Garden City High alumni) was born. Gertrude would not teach until John Jr. started school in 1933.

Gertrude followed her husband John across southern Kansas during the Great Depression starting in Winfield, Medicine Lodge, and then Coldwater as US 160 progressed into Colorado. After a short stint in Kinsley working on the US 50 project, the family moved to Garden City in 1945 where Gertrude taught at Buffalo Jones and Garfield Elementary. Her husband John would continue to work for KDOT marinating US 50 and US 83 until failing health forced him to retire. He died in 1957 at the age of 58.

 

 

The Walker house at 407 Elm St.

The Walker home at 407 Elm St.

During the dark days of the Great Depression, especially the Dust Bowl, and World War II, Gertrude would prepare a pot of beans and maybe some meat the night before. She would take the pot to her class room the following morning where it would simmer then would serve it to her students at lunch. Gertrude would later say that her beans were probably the only hot and nutritious meal many of her kids would receive.

Following her husband’s death, Gertrude completed her BA in Education from the University of Northern Colorado in 1958 (she taught in the classroom for forty years without a college degree) then traveled the world. Gertrude officially retired from teaching in 1963; however she did substitute work for both GCPS as well as the Catholic School where she was affectionately known as "Sister Gertrude". She almost landed herself a role in the 1967 movie “In Cold Blood” and became friends with the actor Will Geer.

Mrs. Walker suffered a stroke shortly after attending the annual Arbor Day ceremony in 1976. She shoveled a spade full of dirt for a tree planted in her honor at her beloved school then collapsed. Hundreds of Garden City residents lined Main Street as the funeral procession carried her body to Valley View Cemetery to be laid to rest next to her husband John.

All photos in this biography were donated by the Walker family.