April 24, 1936 – Jan. 26, 2011
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In 1910, Walt’s grandmother Emma Margaret Miller emigrated from Nebraska. She bought the 160-acre Zollars Homestead in Grizzly Flats where the family still resides. As a child, Walt grew up in his grandmother’s house that was built in the mid to late 1800s. They had no electricity or running water until the 1950s. He recalled many times to his family and friends that he could see through the walls of his room and remembers having snow piling up on the floor of his bedroom through cracks in the walls. The snow would get so deep they had to shovel to get out of their door because the snow was up to the roof. He remembered skiing over the fence posts in the meadow to get to the post office.
Walt attended the one-room Mountain School in Grizzly Flats, and was active in 4-H with his prize-winning calf Betty. His parents expanded the homestead to more than 1,000 acres. His father Floyd operated a home-built sawmill on their property. As one out of eight children, Walt had his first job of delivering goat milk to the loggers. He also said he learned math at that time by counting and bundling shingles his father had cut to sell. During this time, his parents had a herd of more than 300 goats to graze, cattle (that he milked), sheep, horses, chickens and everything that can be found on a farm. He would tell of herding and moving all the animals to their property in Shingle Springs in the fall, then herding them back home in the spring. At that time, Grizzly Flat Road was still a dirt road with car-sized potholes along the river.
Walt went on to graduate from El Dorado High School in 1954. Walt and Maxine met when she was 13 and he was 15 at a Mountain School picnic. Walt proposed to her at a drive-in movie in San Leandro when she was 17 and he was 19. Walter and Maxine were married in 1955 and began their life together in Grizzly Flats while he was serving in the National Guard. He was honorably discharged as a second lieutenant from the Placerville Unit after serving eight years. The family then moved to Aromas where he started his career with the Department of Corrections in the State Prison at Soledad in 1959. During his career, he worked at various correctional facilities ranging from Folsom, Sierra Conservation Center in Jamestown and Tehachapi until he retired in 1981. During his years with the Department of Corrections he was a Sergeant, Lieutenant, counselor and a teacher of landscape gardening.
After retiring from the Department of Corrections Walt started his second career in the logging industry working as a timber faller and skidder operator for Robinson Timber in Grass Valley, Calif. His skills as a timber faller became widespread. He could cut five trees, then cut the last one to fall and take all the rest down at the same time. He could cut one tree to fall with a spin so all of the limbs came off it by the time it stopped on the ground. He could fall a 60-foot tall tree and hit a soda can dead center with the top, no matter which way it was leaning. He was never shy about teaching someone what he knew and helped many people learn more about falling trees. It isn’t as easy as he made it look!
Walt’s last career was being a special education teacher. He started this career at Re-Ed West, now Royal Oaks Center for Children in Sacramento, Calif., and then moved to the El Dorado County Office of Education in Behavioral Intervention. Several times Walt took the children to Sly Park Reservoir to go fishing and hiking and one time for an overnight camping trip. He taught them many life skills including shopping in a grocery store. He continued as a Special Education Teacher until he retired at the age of 65, at which time he continued on to be a substitute teacher at several schools in El Dorado County, including Grizzly Pines School, which was renamed to Walt Tyler Elementary in 2009. Walt was very proud of the special education students who graduated from his program and became successful in their adult lives.
While working in the correctional facilities, Walt attended school in the evenings and acquired Associate of Arts Degrees, a Bachelor of Arts Degree and several degrees in Criminal Law, as well as a degree in Advanced Special Education. He was very proud to be the only person in his family to acquire a college degree.
Walt was active in supporting the 4-H and FFA programs in both Grizzly Flats and at Tehachapi. He was a many-time animal project buyer at the El Dorado County Fair in Placerville, Calif. He became a volunteer firefighter for the Pioneer Fire Protection District, and later was elected to the Board of Directors and held the offices of Chairman, Vice Chairman and Secretary throughout his tenure of 18 years. He was one of the original members of the El Dorado County CERT Team in Grizzly Flats. He was also a board member of the Grizzly Flats Fire Safe Council and was elected to the board of directors for the Grizzly Flats Community Services District.
Walt and Maxine were both involved in their community activities that included Burger Night and the yearly Halloween party. They also invited the children from the Walt Tyler Elementary School to their property to walk through the woods to enjoy a bonfire at the Tyler’s Christmas Tree Farm on the last day of school at winter break to roast hotdogs and marshmallows. While Walt was teaching in the B.I.P. program, he and Maxine started the yearly event Coloma Day where they barbecued and served a picnic lunch for all of the students, their families and staff involved in Special Education in El Dorado County.
Throughout his life, Walt most enjoyed his family, numerous outdoor activities including hunting, rock hounding, fishing, motorcycle riding, recreational boating, camping, hiking, black powder rifles, wood carving and working on his 20 acres, including their Christmas tree farm. He was fortunate to be able to work with his wife and each of his children during various times in his lifetime. He worked with Maxine when they had their landscaping business in Tehachapi, he worked with his daughter Vicky during his teaching career with special education students as well as in the logging industry, he worked with his daughter Margaret when they both worked with the Department of Corrections, and with his son Steven when he was a timber faller.
Because of his active lifestyle, Walt beat and survived polio as a teenager, three heart attacks at the age of 37, and most recently cancer. He touched the lives and hearts of many people throughout his life and he will be greatly missed by all. Most people will remember Walt by his stories. He had a lot of them, and when a person heard one, they wanted to hear more.
Many special thanks go out to the Pioneer and Pleasant Valley Fire Department firefighters and paramedics, Marshall Hospital Emergency Room doctors, nurses and staff and to all of the wonderful doctors, nurses and staff who took care of Walt in his last days at Kaiser Hospital on Morse Avenue.
His memorial service will be held at the Chapel of the Pines Funeral Home, 2855 Cold Springs Road in Placerville on Feb. 18, at 1 p.m., with a reception held immediately afterward at Lyons Hall in Diamond Springs. Please contact Lynn Shetley at 530-626-4131 or Jackie Smelser at 530-626-8248, who are organizing the potluck reception for after the service. The family requests that in lieu of flowers please send any donations to the Walt Tyler Elementary School at P.O. Box 26, Grizzly Flats, CA 95636. Friends may sign a guestbook and leave condolences at chapelofthepinesfunerals.com.