Marcus Walker’s hundreds of friends wished first for a miracle, then peace for him.
Wracked, but never defeated, by metastatic melanoma, Walker died early Friday morning.
Artistic and managing director of Lakewood Playhouse, Walker also was a Baptist minister, husband of Tacoma City Councilwoman Lauren Walker and father of two fine sons, Reuben and Henry.
His last production, a stage adaptation of Chaim Potok’s “My Name Is Asher Lev,” examines the conflict between art and religion. It will play through March 20 at Lakewood Playhouse.
Marcus was delighted with TNT arts critic Rosemary Ponnekanti’s GO cover story on the production.
When his friends asked how they could help, Marcus and his friend, David Fischer of the Broadway Center for the Performing Arts, realized that the most practical tribute would be a fund-raiser to support Lakewood Playhouse. He’s my story on the roast they arranged.
Friday, Lauren Walker sent this remembrance of her husband:
Dear Friends and Family,
Marcus died this morning at 3:23 a.m.
Marcus Scott Walker was born on October 29, 1957 and died March 11, 2011 of metastatic melanoma. He was raised in the fairy tale town of Ashland, New Hampshire, and the pastoral community of Laurel, Washington, and had the idyllic childhood that we all dream of. There he fished with his father, set wheat fields on fire, raised pigs, played the violin, listened to his mother’s analysis of religion and television and rode his bicycle ten miles each day to deliver the Bellingham Herald. More importantly, his loving family set the example that he would follow for kindness to all people in the local community and world.
Graduating from the University of Washington in drama and journalism he received his Master’s in Divinity from Andover Newton Theological School, was ordained an American Baptist minister, and later received a post graduate degree in directing from Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts in London, England.
Marcus was a violinist who played for the University of Washington Symphony and a singer who sang in a classical a cappella groups and on the stage. His musical roles ranged from the Matt the Boy in the Fantastiks to Horton the Elephant in Seussical. His dramatic roles ranged from Haley in Master Harold and the Boys to numerous characters in Greater Tuna. His final direction of a play was My Name is Asher Lev. He never thought of theater as an actor’s playground and always worked on the artist’s craft.
With his wife Lauren (married in 1980) at his side they moved from Seattle to Eugene, Oregon, Boston, Massachusetts, London, England and settled in the Hilltop neighborhood of Tacoma, Washington in 1989 where they raised Reuben and Henry. In each place he acted in and directed plays, served as an inspirational pastor and fell into auctioneering for important causes. While working at Old South Church In the 1980s he started Theater at Old South and one of the country’s first gay and lesbian fellowship groups in the midst of the AIDS crisis. He has worked at theaters and churches throughout the northwest to include the Lakewood Playhouse where he has been artistic director for just shy of 10 years and Burton Community Church on Vashon Island since 1995.
Marcus was always reading, be it tomes of theological texts until 2 a.m., a fabulous novel or the latest play. He wrestled with the meaning of life, the truth about faith and the redemptive nature of theater. His writings and sermons were inspirational.
Marcus’ greatest gift was his ability to communicate with people with humor and compassion. Though he regularly shook his fist at drivers on the road his daily interactions were always tuned to the importance of each human being to ensure that everyone felt appreciated. Though he sometimes drove his family crazy with his workaholic nature, his driving force was to make a mark and, to quote Chaim Potok in The Chosen, to be “worthy of rest.”
Inspired by E.F. Schumacher’s book “Small is Beautiful,” at the age of 21, he served as a volunteer on a mission farm in Cap Haitien, Haiti. It was there that he was devalued by missionaries for not having any gifts to offer. In spite of this he became fast friends with the Haitian people and began a life-long agonizing struggle with his vocation discerning the roles of religious faith, service and the arts. In a recent sermon he stressed not allowing his cancer to define him, but to pray for the people of Haiti as well. Please send donations, in lieu of flowers, in his name to Partners in Health http://www.pih.org/haiti or to the Burton Community Church P.O. Box 13134 Burton, WA 98013.
A memorial service in honor of Marcus’ life will take place on Sunday, March 20th at 5:00 p.m. at Mason United Methodist Church, 2710 North Madison Street, Tacoma, WA.