Born to a pioneer Sebastopol farm family in 1918, Wilma Jean Little Walker walked up the hill to Spring Hill School and after college returned there to launch her career as a teacher beloved by generations of students.
Walker spent most of her career, which spanned more than 35 years, in classrooms of the Sebastopol Union School District. During summer vacations and following her retirement in 1976, she and her late husband, Al Walker, set off on the sorts of international journeys their family and friends would only hope to read about in National Geographic.
Wilma Walker was 94 when she died Sunday at her home, gardens and nature preserve off Vine Hill Road.
"She was so interested in the whole world," said niece Mary Myland Bassior of Sebastopol.
A second niece, Sharon Sly of Portland, Ore., recalled Walker's stories about touring Alaska in a Volkswagen bus and paddling with a native guide into regions of the Amazon River seldom visited by foreigners.
One story recounted how the men of an Amazon village had the women and children run off as the small boat bearing two white people approached. Sly said her aunt told her that she and Al were in their 70s then, and the men of the village examined their wrinkled faces, decided they posed no threat and called the women and children out of hiding.
"They really had a sense of adventure," Sly said.
Walker's grandparents, John and Elizabeth Little, settled a farm south of Sebastopol in the 1870s. She was born on the farm where her parents, Calvin and Mattie, worked on Bodega Highway, west of town.
She told generations of nephews and nieces that when she was young her dad continued also to farm on the family land south of town along Gravenstein Highway. He grew corn there, and he told her that if she wanted to sell it at the family's vegetable stand alongside the highway she could keep the money and use it to buy school clothes.
Niece Bassior said Walker looked forward to July, when men of means would stream by on the way home to San Francisco from the Bohemian Grove Encampment near Monte Rio.