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Walter Lee

February 11, 1935 ~ April 1, 2014

Walter Oran Lee, was born February 11, 1935 in Brunswick, MO. He was the fifth of eight children born to Orville E. and Irene (Ellis) Lee. Walter’s young life was spent in the small Northeastern Oklahoma towns of Vinita, Welsh, Blue Jacket, Timbered Hill, and the surrounding rural areas where his family called home. At the age of twelve, Walter’s mother suddenly passed away, and his life became a journey of moves with his father and his brothers and sisters. The family settled in the north central Oklahoma area, and he attended grade school at several Grant County country schools, and for a short time, attended grade school in Manchester, OK.

In 1949, he had the chance to live and work with Clarence and Connie Struble. Clarence always treated Walter as a man, even at his young age, and told him he was welcome to stay and live as part of their family, but, if he stayed, he had to attend school. The Struble’s took him in as one of their own, and Walter remained close to the Struble family all of his life. While with the Struble family, Walter attended his freshman year at South Haven High School and moved with them to Caldwell where he attended and graduated from Caldwell High School with the class of 1954.

While in high school he participated in football, basketball, and track, was an outstanding, hard-working athlete, and in addition, he worked many part-time jobs around town. While in high school he met his future wife, Betty Wykes. Their first date was in 1951, a Sadie Hawkins Dance at the school, and Betty asked him to go as her date. Betty’s family lived just across the street, and he loved to attend Sunday dinner at her house, as often it was the only hot meal he had all week.

When the Strubles decided to move from Caldwell, Walter made the decision to stay and finish high school, but this time he would be on his own. Not only did Walter excel as a high school athlete, he also worked before school, after practices, and sometimes even during school hours. He stated many times that his coaches and the good people of Caldwell took care of him and watched out for him knowing that he was on his own. People knew that if they needed something done they could count on him to help, and he appreciated the work they sent his way, as it often paid the rent and bought a few groceries. He worked at Johnson’s Feed Store, several of the local gas stations, and Johnson’s Furniture Store.

He rented a downtown apartment and lived with several friends over the next two years, including his lifelong friend Norman Metcalf, Harold Sturm (who would turn out to be his neighbor many years later), and his younger brother Larry.

Following graduation, Walter and Betty were married on July 19, 1954. They lived in many places including Westminister and Gardena, CA, Wichita, KS, Manhattan, KS, Kansas City, KS, and Boonville, MO, before finding their way back to Caldwell in the summer of 1968. Daughter Gayla Marie was born in Caldwell in 1956, son Michael Wayne was born in Inglewood, CA in 1958, and daughter Brenda Ann was born in Kansas City, KS in 1963.

Upon returning to Caldwell, Walter worked several places before securing a job with Winters Truck Line in 1971. During the years that he drove the Winters truck, he met many people and made many friends in the southern Kansas area. It never failed that if you were with Walt, you were bound to run into someone that knew him. His kids teased him that you couldn’t take Dad anywhere within a six-county radius without running into someone who knew him, and then you had to wait on him to finish visiting. He also enjoyed harvest and working for Wayne Wencel and his crew west of Caldwell. He never failed to come home with a good story about harvest and the happenings at the Wencel farm.

In 1976, Walter and Betty purchased the State Line Tavern from Betty’s Aunt and Uncle, Georgia and Ozzie Hines. He would work for the truck line during the day and help Betty, when needed, at the bar in the evenings. He was a natural in the bar business as he never met a stranger, and he could carry on a conversation with anyone. Numerous folks have sat with Walt at the bar and talked and laughed their way through many a story. Countless friends and acquaintances, both young and old, have lifted their glass and heard Walter toast “Mud In Your Eye”.

In May 1991, Walter suffered a major heart attack and spent several days in the ICU at St. Francis Hospital in Wichita, KS. At that time, the Drs. told him that his only option was to be put on the heart transplant list. If he chose not to proceed with a transplant he might live another five years. He politely told them “no thanks” and left the hospital for home where Betty took very good care of him. His family was blessed to have him another twenty-three years.

Walter and Betty owned the State Line Tavern for 25 years, and in the summer of 2001 that chapter of their life came to a close when they sold the business and moved to a home on North Webb Street in Caldwell. Walter enjoyed planting flowers in their backyard, reading anything he could get his hands on, listening to country music, and watching sports on television. He celebrated Homecoming every year with his class of ’54 and looked forward to his 60th high school reunion this fall. He considered Caldwell his “home town” and often stated that there’s no place he’d rather be.

Walter, Betty, and his sister Gertrude started the Annual Lee Family Reunion” in the mid 1980’s, and it continues to this day. He could hardly contain his excitement as reunion time got closer. He loved and appreciated his many nieces and nephews and looked forward to seeing his “loved ones” whenever possible.

Walter’s life journey came to an end in the early-morning hours of Tuesday, April 1, 2014 when he suffered heart failure, and as he spoke of so often, joined his beautiful wife, Betty, in eternal life.

Walter is preceded in death by his wife of 51 years, Betty, brother’s Wayne Lee, Elmer Lee, Dale Lee, and Larry Lee, and son-in-law Kip Oathout.

Walter will be dearly missed by his brother Bob Lee (Judy), sisters Mary Burris Brooks and Gertrude Allison, brothers-in-law Don Wykes (Ann) and Bruce Wykes (Sannie), his three children, Gayla Oathout, Michael Lee (Dale), and Brenda Sparks (Michael); his seven grandchildren Scott Lee (Krystal), Brett Oathout (Cara), Chance Sparks, JD Adams, Lacey Lee (Bruce), Jill Crumbliss (Richard), and Leah Sparks (Isaac); and his 11 great-grandchildren Dilyn Lee, Dakota Lee, Dru Lee, James Gonzalez, Xavier Gonzalez, Carlos Gonzales, Miguel Gonzalez, Payton Lee, Piper Crumbliss, Richie Crumbliss, and Marrin Crumbliss, as well as many nieces and nephews, and countless friends.

A funeral service will be held 2:00 p.m. Saturday at the Schaeffer Mortuary Chapel.

Memorials may be given in Walter's name to the Caldwell High School Alumni Association.

Leave Condolences


Greg Aldridge

Family and Friends - 04/01/2014

Walt was such a kind man and a pleasure to be around. He will be missed by his family and the Caldwell community. My prayers will be with his family. I'm so sorry for your loss.


Kathie Henton

Family and Friends - 04/02/2014

So very sorry to hear of Walt's death. Gayla, Mike, Brenda and extended family; you are in my thoughts and prayers.


PFC Jacob Lawrence Roth

Family and Friends - 04/02/2014

I am sad to hear the news when I'm so far away. I would like to say I'm so sorry for the lost to all of the Lee Family and The Sparks family. If I left anyone out I'm very sorry too. I wish I could be there. Walt was like an other grandpa to me from out at the State line to him and betty moving to the house down the street from my house. Walt would smile like crazy when I would go visit him. He would invite me in like I was family, we would sit and talk for hours about anything. He will be greatly miss but I will carry his spirit with me forever. Walt was a great guy and he will be missed like crazy.


Shawna Schneider

Family and Friends - 04/02/2014

Some very fond memories of Monday night football, chili and hanging with Walt at the State Line when Greg and I were first married.

He was a gentle kind soul. Will never forget him!


Lany & Deb Rohrer

Family and Friends - 04/02/2014

Sorry for your loss. I respected your dad alot. Spent many hours with him when we were growing up. Had a lot fun going to the State line visiting with him. He always welcomed me into his home. He will be missed. Take care all of you.


Kevin and Ginger LeCounte

Family and Friends - 04/03/2014

Gayla, Mike, Brenda and family, so sorry to hear about Walt's passing. He was such a nice man who had such an infectious smile who will definitely be missed. Our prayers are with you and your families.


Jennifer Habermehl

Family and Friends - 04/03/2014

Mike and Dale, JD, Lacey and Scott

My heart and though's are extended to all of you as you celebrate all the warm memories of a great dad and grandpa.

Love Jennifer Habermehl


Shella (Foster), Dennis, & Kyle Wanzer

Family and Friends - 04/04/2014

Gayla, Mike, & Brenda & families,

So sorry to hear about your dad. I have great memories living across the street from you guys and all the fun we had for so many years. You are all in my prayers.


charles & connie mobley

Family and Friends - 04/07/2014

Dear Family.

Our hearts are with you in the loss of our dear Walt. He was a wonderful person, I loved him like a brother. Our loss is Heavens gain and we will see him again. all our prayers to the family. We shall miss him. love to all, Charles & Connie.


Pat Struble Keener

Family and Friends - 04/11/2014

Gayla, Mike and Brenda - I am so sad to just learn of your Dad's passing. I had called and talked to him recently and he sounded so good and happy. We had visited about seeing him when we come down for Memorial Day...and we will visit him...just in a different place. My family always considered him a member of the family and I will always think of him as my big brother. May knowing what a giving and caring person he was be a comfort to all of you. You are in my thoughts.


Raymond and Linda (Struble) Moeder

Family and Friends - 04/11/2014

Dear Lee Family,

So sad to hear of Walts passing. He along with his family were always a huge part of our lives, and I know I speak for all of the Clarence and Connie Struble family when I say we will always be grateful to have had the Lee family as part of our family. You all will always have a special place in our hearts. Both Walter and Betty were two very special people, and we were all very blessed to have known and loved them. Please know that we are keeping all of you in our thoughts and prayers.


Randy Kubik

Family and Friends - 05/08/2014

Gayla, Mike & Brenda:

I am saddened to hear of your dad's passing. I alwayas loved his great sense of humor and big smile... He never met a stranger & I know that he will be missed by many more.

In this time of your grief & loss you are in my thoughts and prayers now & always.



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