Gary Walter 22 January 2008
Quintessential 5th gen Portlander on a road not taken
Born and raised on the slopes of Mt. Tabor, I have the flow of PDX in my blood. My 20 year stint as a paramedic and firefighter have shown me a slice of life that most will never see. Dying people have taught me the meaning of life.
In 1990 I transfered into emergency medical operations management and had the opportunity to help continue Portland (and Oregon’s) leadership in the national EMS community. Co-chairing a state task force that created the first statewide EMS database.
Then in 1995, I left this rewarding and challenging career to finish my degree and go on to grad school. I sold my home, left my family, and set out to destinations unknown. Since then I’ve lived in five other states, gotten married, and fathered two beautiful kids.
If I’d know how much fun it was going to be, I might have thought about marriage and family a lot sooner.
During my absence from the PNW, I was a student, technical services manager, accountant, business manager, volunteer coordinator, ski instructor, motivational speaker, ski patroller, grad student, conference coordinator, and life coach.
Now back in the Portland area, I am continuing my new career as a life coach and motivational speaker. I am saving lives in a different way.
What are you up to?
Besides settling into our new home and helping my Midwestern wife to adjust to living in the PNW, I am loving being a dad to a three year old sweetheart and five month old buckaroo. I love being a Dad and a husband!
In addition, I am re-exploring Portland and the metro area and reconnecting with “my” home. It was great to treat and transport the sick and the injured, but to truly help people I have to be connected. As I seek to reintegrate myself and build true community within my circle, I see a myriad of possibilities to help people grow; personally, professionally, socially, emotionally, spiritually, financially, communally, and within their own families.
To me, this is the place to incorporate life into balance.
What are you into?
Family, reading, writing, amateur techie, web design (as a creative outlet, not for profit), photography, outdoors, skiing, and spending quiet times in secluded NW environs.
What do you like most about Portland?
The fabric of energy and nuance that I have found only here. Sure we have some things in common with SF and Sea-Tac, but Portland is unique and beautiful. Our weather keeps away the rif-raf, and our beauty attracts some very creative people. In addition, our neighborhoods are not cliquish. One can easily move about Montavilla, Hawthorne, Sellwood, or Laurelhurst with no fear of rejection or safety.
But the best thing is that I truly believe we all contribute valuable ingredients to this fabric.
How do you expect to use your strengths and experience to impact the community?
Not only is it relatively easy for me to discern needs and deficiencies, but I also see people with the talents and strengths to meet these challenges. Unfortunately, many people are unable to rise above their own life challenges to branch outside of their own lives.
I have been given the ability to gather people together into teams to accomplish what could not be accomplished alone. By creating a shared vision and helping people to see their own uniqueness and strengths, I have had great success in seeing projects come to fruition that most said was impossible.
Over the course of the last 20 years I’ve come to realize the importance of shared community and now see that as a greater goal to the actual tasks that have been accomplished. The people of PDX already share much of this vision and I expect to see great results as my life becomes reintegrated back into life here.
(PS: On December 8th, I gathered 55 people and we traveled to Vernonia to help that community recover from their flooding. I still hear from some of those volunteers and victims about how meaningful it was to them. It was a very rewarding experience for everyone – including me.)
Now that you’re back in Portland, what is the one thing you most want to accomplish?
Although most people my age are grandparents, I have a toddler and a newborn at home. It is a great experience and I love being a Dad. It is by far my greatest personal accomplishment and I now look at this as my primary occupation – everything else just pays the bills.
My Dad was born in a log cabin that his grandfather built on the Oregon coast. My mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother all grew up in Portland. There is a lot of tradition and history in my background. There is a lot of cool serendipitous history in Portland. I want to expose my kids to that history and those traditions.
I want my family to skate at Oaks Park, like my family did. I want my kids to appreciate the night from Council Crest and Mt. Tabor. I want them to eat cool food and participate in the Jr. Rose Parade. I want my kids to grow up with the same eclectic, eccentric, esoteric, energy that PDX infused into my life!