IIAR Remembers Fred Gary Walker

Fred Walker was known for his unfailing work ethic, integrity and commitment to the refrigeration industry, in which he was involved for more than 40 years. “A saying Fred used was, ‘The only thing better than coming in early is staying late,’ and he lived it. I don’t remember going to the office and he wasn’t there and he never left before I did,” said Mike Elliott, regional PSM manager, Central, for Americold Logistics, who worked alongside Walker for more than 25 years.

Walker, 68, passed away on August 10 after a brave battle with cancer. He was born on Nov. 21, 1946, in Modesto, California. After finishing school, Walker served in the U.S. Military before entering the refrigeration industry. He was employed as an engineer by Americold Logistics for 41 years, retiring as vice president of engineering in July. “He started as a plant engineer and he made his way up through the ranks with hard work,” Elliott said.

What’s more, Walker was a true advocate of safety and technology. “We were at the forefront of installing process safety management early on,” Elliott said. “He was always at the forefront of the refrigeration industry. The reality is that he was always willing to advance new technology.”

Wayne Hay, director, regional facility services, U.S., for Agro Merchants, and a former colleague of Walker’s, said, “I think the one thing I have noticed while Fred was sick and after he passed is that I could not attempt to count how many times I have said and heard from others, ‘If it wasn’t for Fred….’”

Walker served two terms on IIAR’s board of directors, including one term as chairman—something that was a lifelong goal for him. “He told me one time on a long car trip in the middle of the night that one of his life’s goals was to be chairman of the IIAR, and he was able to achieve one of his life dreams,” Elliott said, adding that Walker was always willing to share his knowledge with others.

“He was a taskmaster. He expected the best of all of us. It made us all better people.”

– Wayne Hay, director, regional facility services, U.S., Argo Merchants

Hay said, “Fred wrote many bulletins published by the IIAR and helped create many training videos. Fred also was very involved with the Lanier Technical College of Ammonia Refrigeration Training.” Walker was also eager to teach, and was an incredible resource to many as a mentor. “At the end of the day he was one of the smartest men I ever knew,” Elliott said. “He was a taskmaster. He expected the best of all of us. It made us all better people.”

Walker’s wife of 47 years, Maxine, warned Hay about her husband’s work ethic before he went to work for Walker. Hay and his wife visited the Walkers in Atlanta and the four went out to dinner. “At the dinner Maxine said, ‘Wayne, do not take this job. You will end up working 24 hours a day.’ I took the job and yes she was very close. If I got to the office at 5 a.m., Fred was there. If I stayed to 9 p.m., Fred was there,” Hay said, adding that he worked with Walker for more than 13 years at Americold. Walker’s colleagues said he had an impressive memory. “Fred never forgot anything. If he told you to do something in a warehouse and he went back 10 years later, the first thing he would do is check to make sure what he told you 10 years ago was done,” Hay said.

Walker is survived by Maxine along with his daughter, Tina Koehler, and her husband, Christopher; his son, Rodney David Walker, and his wife Candace; six grandchildren; and his mother, Olive Walker.