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Walter J. Pape of Marion

  • Walter J. Pape

    Walter J. Pape

updated: 10/5/2017 5:38 PM

MARION -- Walter J. Pape died at 11:15 a.m. on Oct. 4, 2017.

He was born Jan. 13, 1926, on the family farm, the son of William and Martha (Wohlwend) Pape, and lived his entire life in Marion. He graduated from Marion High School in 1943 and married Kathleen (Kay) Coleman in 1949, and they shared nearly 60 years together before she passed away in 2009. Walter and Kay had two sons: James, born in 1952; and John, born in 1955.

Walter served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, where he was a member of the military police and received awards for outstanding marksmanship. He returned to Marion after the war to help on the family farm south of town, which has now been in the family for 122 years.

He continued to farm for his entire life and was still passing on farming tips to his grandsons just days before his death. He was trained as a carpenter and worked with various companies before he eventually founded Walter Pape Construction Company in the late 1960s. He was known for the quality of his work on new homes as well as on extensive remodeling projects. Many of the buildings he built are still solidly standing.

In the late 1980s, he became the Marion city building inspector and served in that capacity until his retirement.

Walter was a lifetime member of Zion United Church of Christ and served that congregation in many capacities, including board president, for several years. He grew up in the church and that is where he was confirmed, married and raised his children. He regularly attended the church his whole life.

When Walter was born, the services at Zion were still conducted in German. As a descendant of one of the founding families of the church, he worked to provide an ongoing foundation for the congregation. He deeply loved the church and was beloved as one of the patriarchs of the congregation.

Walter also was active in the Illinois South Conference of United Church of Christ, serving in various capacities, most notably in support of the Illinois South Conference DuBois Center in DuBois. He worked tirelessly as a volunteer at the DuBois Center and greatly enjoyed attending activities there, particularly the fall festival.

Being a leader was very important to Walter, and he was also very active in the community. He served as a board member and then president of the Williamson County Fair. He helped organize and was a charter member of the local Racking Horse Association. Early in his career, he was a member of the Carpenter's Local and served as an officer in that organization. He also was active as a Boy Scout leader when his son, Jim, was a Scout.

Walter is survived by his son, John, who lives in Topsfield, Massachusetts, with his husband, Alan Seale. John is the director of Opera Studies at Boston Conservatory.

He was preceded in death by his son, Jim, in 2016.

He is also survived by his daughter-in-law of 47 years, Deborah Jenkins Pape of Marion. Walter had 20 direct descendants, including his sons; grandson, David, wife, Trinka, and great-grandchildren, Joshua, Rebecca and Aaron; grandson, Nathaniel and great-grandchildren, Grace and Joseph; grandson, Kaleb, wife, Amber, and great-grandchildren, Judah, Mary, Rivers, Emet and Eben; and granddaughter, Kate, and great-grandchildren, Ben, Jake, Gregory Adam and Sam.

Walter's life will be celebrated at 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 7, in Zion United Church of Christ, 930 W. Cherry St., in Marion with the Rev. John Holst officiating. Burial will follow in Egyptian Memorial Gardens with military rites presented by members of Carrier Mills and Harrisburg American Legion Ritual Team and National Guard Flag Detail Unit.

Visitation will be from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 6, at Mitchell-Hughes Funeral Home in Marion and 1 to 2 p.m. Saturday at the church.

In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations be made to the Walter and Kay Pape Scholarship Fund at Zion United Church of Christ. Established after Kay's death in 2009, the scholarship has been awarded annually to a deserving student entering college. Memorial contribution cards will be available at the funeral home and church during the visitation and funeral.

For additional information or to sign the guest memorial register, visit