BOONE COUNTY - In the year that he would have celebrated a century of life, World War II veteran Ribel "Bib" Walker is remembered by his three daughters through the donation of 300 hand-made bibs to Boone County organizations who could distribute them.
Walker's three daughters are churning out the bibs that they feel honor his memory for a good cause. Walker's daughter Nancy Hale lives in Tennessee and spearheaded the project.
"Recently, I challenged myself and two sisters to sew 100 bibs each in honor of our father, who would have been 100 years old this year," she said. "They met the challenge and the idea grew from there."
The sisters hope that they can find homes for the bibs in Boone County and they want them to be used in areas of need and not sold for profit. The idea was born from the nickname of their father.
Much of the fabric used in the bibs came from Barbara's Town Square Fabrics in Danville.
Bib Walker was born in Blair and his mother died when he was a child. He had two younger siblings. His father remarried and he gained new siblings.
According to his daughter, he was a quiet man of few words, but he cared deeply for others and was regularly helping his neighbors and family members.
"He was definitely quiet," Hale said. "He was very shy. He had a teacher in school that asked him to do an oral book report and he was so shy that he left the school. He was very smart and could do anything around the house. He could do just about anything."
Walker served in the U.S. Army Air Corps; however, he almost didn't get the opportunity to serve his country because he was nearly blind in one eye. After several attempts to pass the eye test, a doctor in Madison finally passed him and told him it would be up to another physician down the line to deny him.
"The doctor said that someone else would kick him out eventually," Hale said. "Nobody ever did. He got in and he managed to serve honorably. He repaired radios on airplanes."
He was injured during his service but he declined the benefits that could have come his way as a result of the experience. He wanted to come home and go to work and take care of his family.
"Dad's injury happened in New Guinea," Hale added. "Some bullets had accidentally been raked into the burn pile. They exploded and shrapnel hit his leg. He did serve mostly in the Philippines, where he took food from the mess hall to their houseboy and brought oranges for the houseboy's sister who had tuberculosis. He made it home, raised six children and worked in the coal mines."
One thing that he was particularly proud of was that all six of his and Kathryn "Kitty" Walker's children earned college degrees. John, Nancy, Kenny, Deloris, Kevin and Rada still communicate regularly and Kitty, 88, still walks to church, with some assistance, to Gospel Center Tabernacle where she plays the piano when able.
"He helped all of us getting started financially whether it was helping to build our first home or in other ways," Hale said. "He was a very hard worker and he was creative and very talented."
Bib Walker passed away in 2006 at the age of 87. His memory is kept alive through the memories he left behind. He always raised a garden and was quick to give his neighbors the fruits of his labor.
"He was a very giving man," she added. "He liked helping others."
Hale said her father was good to his siblings and he had a soft heart for his children.
"They used to have a big family meal and relatives would gather at the home," she said. "He would wait until the adults cleared out and then he would go help his sister wash the dishes because he felt sorry for her having to do the dishes."
Bib Walker helped build the Gospel Center Tabernacle where his wife continues to worship today. He was a fan of newspapers, and beyond being a reader of the Coal Valley News, he would bring newspapers home from other towns and read them entirely.
"He had many interests," Hale said. "He was a good, hard-working man who loved his family and we're very excited to be able to honor him in some way."
For any churches or other organizations interested in distributing the bibs to children in need, you can reach out to Nancy Hale by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reporter Phil Perry can be reached at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter