Norm Walker was pound for pound one of the toughest men to come out of the Silver Valley.
A longtime football and boys basketball coach at Mullan and Wallace, Walker died Thursday on his 83rd birthday because of failing health.
Walker, who boxed collegiately at the University of Idaho, grew up in Burke near Wallace. He used to have a saying: “The further up Burke Canyon you lived the tougher you were, and I lived in the last house.”
Walker coached the Mullan boys basketball team to the State A-4 championship in 1965, his final year at the school. He moved on to Wallace the next year where he coached both basketball and football. He retired from coaching after the 1988 season.
His final football team defeated its biggest rival, Kellogg, 13-6 that year. In fact, Wallace beat Kellogg twice that season including a 28-0 win in the annual nonleague season opener.
Walker’s football teams were 184-116 overall, 126-84 at Wallace. He coached 34 years, 24 at Wallace. His 1986 football team lost to Jerome 44-20 in the A-2 state title game.
He was inducted into the Idaho High School Activities Hall of Fame in 1987.
Former Mullan football and boys basketball coach John Drager, 70, was an assistant under Walker for two years at Mullan including the state title season.
“He was my best friend,” Drager said. “I couldn’t have started coaching with a better guy. He was a great coach, a great friend, had a great personality and a great sense of humor. I’m going to really miss him. He was so well-liked and was a very colorful person.”
Dave Rounds was a three-year starter for Walker in the mid-1970s.
“Norm wasn’t an easy guy to play for,” Rounds said. “We bumped heads quite a bit.”
Rounds had immense respect for his coach, though.
Rounds took over as head coach at Wallace in 1991 and will enter his 21st season this fall. Rounds dropped out of college at one point and it was Walker who encouraged him to go back and finish his education.
“He was one of my biggest supporters,” Rounds said. “I have tons and tons of memories. A lot of us have stories about Norm that have only gotten better with the years.”
Rounds said Walker will be missed.
“He was an icon in Wallace,” Rounds said. “There are a lot of guys that Norm influenced.”
Walker is survived by his wife, Sonia, who shared the same birth date with her husband.
Funeral arrangements are pending.