Michael Joseph Walters
February 28, 1948 – March 29, 2019
Mike was a true patriot and
would help advocate for veterans.
Michael Joseph Walters, age 71, of Osage, MN, formerly of Valley City, ND and Lewistown, MT, peacefully passed from this life to eternal life after fighting a valiant battle against the damage caused by Agent Orange. Mike died at the Sanford Medical Center in Fargo, ND, with his loved ones at his side on Friday evening, at 10:22 pm on March 29, 2019, the National Vietnam War Veterans Day, which commemorates the 44th year anniversary of the Vietnam War.
Mike was born on February 28, 1948 in the mountains of Lewistown, MT, to Robert and Betty Miller. Shortly after his birth, Mike’s dad Robert was killed in a plane crash. Mike was adopted by Maurice vanderHagen, who died when Mike was 8. Mike’s grandfather, Mike Miller and his uncle Bud Miller remained close mentors to him during these impressionable years. As a young boy he attended St. Catherine’s Catholic School in Lewistown through the eighth grade. When Mike’s mother, Betty, was married to Lloyd Walters, the new family moved to Valley City, ND where Lloyd adopted Mike and his siblings and loved them as his own. Mike was a standout football player in high school. His football Coach O’Neal and classmates nicknamed him “Hannibal” to distinguish him from the other two Michaels in his class. Mike’s size compelled the nickname Hannibal, after one of the greatest military leaders in history, General Hannibal, whose most famous campaign took his opponents off-guard by crossing the Alps with elephants in about 218 B.C... O’Neal and classmates thought the nickname Hannibal sounded like a large person. This nickname was given with affection as they welcomed Mike to their class, and the nickname stuck with him within the community of Valley City and throughout his life.
After graduating with the Class of 1966, Mike enlisted in the United States Navy where he proudly and bravely served his country in the Vietnam War from 1967 – 1971. Mike served as part of the River Boat Squadron. He was a 50 Caliber gunner with the armed troop carrier, Tango 112-3. His riverboat received numerous service awards and decorations while he was on board. He was the only man to return home from the war, two years later from the original group of sailors that stepped onto that boat.
After receiving his honorable discharge, Mike returned to Valley City, ND and then relocated to Wahpeton, ND where he attended college for a time and started All American Communications selling and installing CB Radios, Base Stations and towers, on the forefront of the CB Radio craze, when the communication technology became affordable. His CB handle was “Questor”, which means “In Search Of.” Later he became an over the road truck driver in a career that spanned over 30 years. In 1975, he met Vicki Bishop and was united in marriage on June 21, 1980. Their marriage was blessed with four daughters: Michelle, Nikki, Shawna and Theresa. The newlyweds moved to Osage, MN in the fall of 1981 where they continued operating MVM Trucking Company until 1999 when he began the WR&D Pilot Car Service which he operated until his retirement in 2016. Mike was well known in the industry for his skill in movements of mega loads across the U.S. and Canada. During Mike’s last move across the U.S., he was accompanied by his wife Vicki and his driver Bob Booth. These three spent the last nine years together working as a team while putting on many miles in search of fulfilling their love for the open road, earning a living and ‘Living The Dream.” The close-knit friendship shared by Mike, Vicki, and Bob (aka “Boss”), is one that remains near and dear to the family’s heart. Mike and Vicki met so many wonderful men and women while they traveled, that had an amazing impact on their lives that became a part of their “Road Family”.
Mike was an avid outdoorsman who loved the adrenaline rush of scuba diving through ice, shipwrecks, caves, and other challenging underwater dives. His daughter Michelle distinctly remembers the day her and her dad hung up a “Michelle and Dads Dive Service” flyer at the Osage Market with information about their underwater Search and Rescue Diver Company they started. The impression of that memory, of the broad smile on his face and twinkle in his eyes, at that moment, is what drove Michelle to achieve her lifelong entrepreneurial spirit. You see, entrepreneurial spirit is a mindset. It's an attitude and approach to thinking that actively seeks out change, rather than waiting to adapt to change. It's a mindset that embraces critical questioning, innovation, service, and continuous improvement. Mike boldly instilled this value in all the lives of those he mentored.
Mike sought out adventures, whether it was racing his GTO, rolling up on his Goldwing Motorcycle with his Motorcycle Club, or taking trips to the Wisconsin Dells like he did in 2017, where his daughter Shawna lovingly recalls chasing dad around until they found the biggest and craziest waterslide. He turned to her and exclaimed excitedly, “Let’s do it before we can’t!!!” and turned to lead the exhaustive way to the top of the slide.
Mike was known to be an innovator and Pioneer in Leading the Way his entire life. He was proficient in Savate, held his private pilot’s license to fly, loved music and it was the sounds from the drums that moved him as he listened, was an amazing writer, invested and learned about alternative care practices and natural medicines, as he knew it would help people. Whether you needed a protector or listening ear, Mike was there. In any given situation, he could be as tough or as tender as he needed to be. The fact his daughter Nikki knew he was only “one call away” gave her the confidence to spear boldly into every situation life brought her way. Mike’s Four Pack plans to carry on his memory serving and advocating for others the same way they watched their dad do with so much passion.
Mike enjoyed hiking and camping in the mountains of his beloved Montana. During Mike and Vicki’s month long Honeymoon, they hopped on the Goldwing and headed out to Montana. Vicki still has the paper that Mike wrote a note along the way that says, “I love you Ms. Walters.” She crossed out Ms. Walters, correcting it to Mrs. Walters to establish the continuation of their beautiful love story that started their next chapter. Those trips to Montana were only complete after he stopped in to see his Uncle Bud Miller and then his lifelong friend Dave Schlosser. After Mike retired from road life, and he and Dave both turned 70, they exchanged stories almost daily about their new adventures of what they referred to as “Geezerhood.” No matter what decision Mike had to make, the first thing out of his mouth was “I gotta call Dave.”
He served as an Awana leader where he mentored troubled teens, and while serving, Mike met the son he never had, Jamie Brandenburg, and without hesitation, Jamie truly became a part of the Walters family.
Justin Carlson, Randy Skipper, Jason Pede, and Richard Greene were among a small group of men that dad took under his wing, spent time with, shared his wise wisdom as he advised them, and finally, he loved as if they were his own. “Whenever you feel alone, know that you still have me. You can talk to me and share your thoughts with me whenever you want. I’ll always be by your side, listening to your stories and guiding you each day.”
Mike enjoyed worshiping at Eastside Church. He loved attending the men’s prayer breakfast every week. One of the men stated things got a lot livelier after he started attending. When Mike received word from the doctors in August about his cancer diagnosis, as people would ask what they could do for him, he’d tell them “Just come to Eastside Church one time and pray for me.” The three pastors that made a huge difference along his journey were Mark Shuey, Bill Hodge, and Justin Domogalla.
Mike was a true patriot and would help advocate for veterans. He was an active member of the Disabled American Veterans and he took this role very seriously.
Above all, Michael devoted his life to his family: his soulmate, Vicki, their four daughters, and five grandchildren he so dearly loved.