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Life Story / Obituary
A true German American through and through, Linda Walters lived her life with a passion for family, serving others, and enjoying the little things in life. Linda’s caring and nurturing personality touched and impacted so many people. Gone from this world too soon, Linda will forever live on in the hearts and minds of all who knew and loved her. Linda will forever be the foundation for her family, and a cornerstone in her children’s future families.
As the Cold War escalated in the early 1960s, Germany was a nation divided. Many refugees fled East Germany for the West, but in 1961 the GDR ended free access to West Berlin and built the Berlin Wall. Over the next 28 years, many individuals lost their lives trying to get over the Wall in search of a better life on the other side. Amidst this troubling time, there was reason to celebrate for Staff Sergeant Edward and Elisabeth (Sottong) Russell, Jr.
On October 15, 1961, the happy couple welcomed their fifth child, Linda. Born in Bad Kreuznach, Germany, Linda grew up and lived in Germany for most of her childhood and early adulthood. Linda’s childhood was filled with many memories going to the park, swimming, and playing with her siblings, cousins, and friends. Linda’s Oma called her “Rab”, the German word for raven, because Linda had such dark hair. Close in age to her sister, Bunny, the two were often dressed as twins and always remained especially close throughout her entire life. Growing up in a German household and attending American schools for military children, Linda became fluent in both German and English. Throughout her life Linda would often speak both languages and effortlessly switch between the two, often in the same conversation.
Linda graduated high school in 1979, as the U.S. military presence in Germany was growing to its highest levels of the Cold War. Linda began her career in higher education at Big Bend Community College’s European campus, which provided vocational degrees to military members. Linda also started working on her bachelor’s degree with the University of Maryland Europe Campus. Linda developed a passion for learning and helping others do the same; a career in the academic world was very fitting for Linda’s drive and charismatic personality. In 1986, Linda’s outgoing personality led to a chance encounter with U.S. Army First Lieutenant Timothy Walters at the Officers Club. Linda immediately knew Tim was the love of her life, and even told her family that evening she just met her future husband.
Tim also knew they were meant to be together, and they eloped on December 29, 1987. They then moved to Tim’s new duty station at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, where Linda continued her career working for Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. In 1991, Linda gave birth to their first child, Elizabeth Rachel, while Tim was deployed during Desert Shield/Storm. After Tim’s return from the Gulf War, the family moved to their new duty station in Heidelberg, Germany where Linda gave birth to their second child, Christopher, in 1993.
Linda lovingly and joyfully cherished the role as mother to Elizabeth Rachel and Christopher. While Tim forged his career with the Army, Linda ran the household. She was always the first one up in the mornings and made sure everyone else was up and ready on time. Linda also made time to be involved in her children’s education and community, by volunteering as a teacher’s aide, Parent Teachers Association President, book fair organizer, as well as supporting her children’s youth soccer teams and Scout troops.
Linda and Tim enjoyed many adventures overseas with their children over the next 22 years while they were stationed at various military posts in Germany. The family enjoyed many memorable vacations in Bavaria, where Linda enjoyed seeing her children snowboard in the Alps, visit famous tourist attractions such as Neuschwanstein (the inspiration for the Disney castle), and share laughs and stories with each other at the Edelweiss Lodge. The family also had many other fun and exciting excursions throughout Europe, such as visiting Weihnachts Fests in Wiesbaden, Nuremberg and Ansbach, Germany; the Schmetterlinghaus and other attractions in Vienna, Austria; London to attend the musical Wicked and see Buckingham Palace; the Berlin Zoological Garden to see Knut the Polar Bear; the Louvre, Eiffel Tower and Champs-Elysees in Paris, France; the tulip gardens in Keukenhof, Holland; the Leaning Tower of Pisa and Trevi Fountain in Rome, Italy; and GamesCom in Leipzig and Cologne, Germany.
Linda was not the biggest sports fan, unless it was “real” football (soccer). Linda watched the World Cup religiously and had every German jersey for each World Cup year. The family cheered on either the German or U.S. national teams at World Cup and Nationalmannschaft games. They even attended the U.S. men’s World Cup match between U.S. and Italy in 2006 and the U.S. women’s World Cup final match between U.S. and Japan in 2011.
Known as a caring, bright, fun-loving, and amazing woman, Linda influenced the lives of so many. While the family lived in Heidelberg and Wiesbaden, Germany, Linda was also a community volunteer. Linda received the Commander’s Award for Public Service for her significant contributions that improved the quality of life in the Wiesbaden military community. The family then moved to Ansbach, Germany, where Linda returned to her career in higher education with Central Texas College serving soldiers and their families, while completing her bachelor’s degree in psychology. Linda enjoyed helping all the students she encountered. With her father and husband both having military backgrounds, she understood how best to assist military members and their families. She gave confidence where it was needed and a gentle nudge of encouragement, eventually helping countless military members find a renewed passion for their education.
After her children returned to the states to attend college, Linda and Tim relocated to Augusta, Michigan, and she continued her career with Western Michigan University. Linda’s desire to give back to her community led her to run for public office and she was elected as Ross Township Clerk last year. Linda was extremely proud of her campaign and quickly put her talents to use in the Township office. Wherever Linda and Tim lived, she used her talents and charisma to inspire others, helping them find their passion and path in life, while making a difference in her community.
Linda was also well known for her love of Christmas. She decorated for every holiday and season, but Christmas was very special. Her house was lit inside and out, with fresh garland and wreaths on the front door, an impeccable Christmas tree, and decorations in every corner of the home. Linda’s decorations would be up before Thanksgiving weekend and stay until after Elizabeth Rachel’s birthday. Shopping for and with loved ones was a favorite pastime of Linda’s. Her shopping trips were not about buying “stuff.” It was about the enjoyment of window shopping with loved ones and the reactions from her husband or children to her thoughtful gifts.
Family and friends meant everything to Linda – always welcoming them into her home and heart. Linda was known as a “second” mom to many of her children’s friends, often cooking extra portions or inviting them on family vacations. When Linda’s daughter was 18 and would go out on the town, Linda always made sure both Elizabeth Rachel and her best friend, Danica, had their own spending money. She also had a strong belief that pets were part of the family. The family Yorkies always had their own presents under the Christmas trees and never missed a moment in the spotlight. Linda’s love for animals extended beyond the doors of her home. Recently, she even put a cathouse and food on her front porch for a pair of stray cats. Though well intentioned, this act of kindness eventually attracted two opossums and a racoon as well!
Ever supportive, Linda shared a special bond with her kids. Her children were her pride and joy, and she was always their biggest supporter. She encouraged her son, Christopher, to go back to college for his second degree and, in doing so, he finally found his direction in life. Linda was the catalyst for Christopher’s successful year abroad, and worked around the clock to help him navigate many challenges despite the time difference. She also made time to call her daughter in Seattle multiple times every day. They both could not pass up Starbucks coffee and shared the app on their phones so that when one bought coffee, the other would receive an alert as if to say, “good morning!” Linda was even known to secretly put a little money in her kids’ bank accounts to “treat” them to dinner or ensure they had enough for groceries. Always putting them ahead of herself, Linda found happiness by guiding and helping them to find their happiness.
Linda was known and well-liked for her “German sense of humor,” mischievous smile, sparkling green eyes, and contagious laugh. Especially her personality that was full of special quirks. With a desire to make people smile and laugh, she could always be counted on for a small prank. This often meant answering the phone as a random business when family and friends called, throwing them off to get a good laugh. She also routinely had fun with Tim when they exchanged “I love you’s.” Tim would always try to get Linda to say, “I love you more,” but she would not concede until Tim said “Yeah, I love you more.” Then Linda would say, “I know you do,” with a twinkle in her eye followed by a kiss.
Words cannot truly portray what a special person Linda was, and what her loss means to her loved ones and friends. She was proud to be equally German and American. She influenced the lives of so many in an immeasurable way and was loved by so many in return. She will be forever missed, but forever remembered as a beautiful and caring woman, wife, mother, and friend. We will always love Linda with infinite and unconditional love as she loved us.
Linda was preceded in death by her parents, brother Michael “Mitchie” Russell, sister Donna Tondevold, sister Ann Gunter, and her grandmother Margerita Sottong and uncle Eugene Sottong, who both helped raise Linda and her siblings.
Those Linda leaves behind to cherish her memory include her husband of 34 years, Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) Timothy Walters; children Elizabeth Rachel Walters and Christopher Walters; brother Steven Russell and sister Joan “Bunny” Russell, both of Longwood, Florida; and several brothers and sisters-in-law, as well as many nieces and nephews; and numerous relatives in Germany. She also leaves behind her life-long friends Josef Traut of Bad Kreuznach, Germany, and Laura Ostertag of Spring Hill, Florida.
A Life Story visitation will be held 4-6 PM Wednesday (June 16) at Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo 269-375-2900. Additional services will take place in Orlando, FL with burial at All Faith Memorial Park.
Visit Linda’s personal webpage at www.BetzlerLifeStory.com where you are encouraged to read her Life Story, archive a favorite memory or photo, and sign her online guestbook. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations would be preferred to American Cancer Society or Alzheimer’s Association.