Steamboat says goodbye to its 'queen'

From the Colorado mountains to New York City, 'Skeeter' Werner Walker left her mark

Advertisement

— The friends of Gladys "Skeeter" Werner Walker filled the nave of Holy Name Catholic Church to capacity Thursday afternoon.

They spilled into a spare room downstairs where the memorial service for one of Steamboat's greatest skiing legends was carried via closed circuit television.

The turnout was a testament to the people Skeeter touched in her 67 years of life. As the oldest child in the Werner clan, she built a reputation that reaches out from this small Colorado mountain town to the streets of New York City.

Like her brothers, Wallace "Buddy" Werner and Loris "Bugs" Werner, she made her name in skiing. But she also excelled as a model in New York for the Madame Eleanora Garnett's exclusive fashion house, was an accomplished business woman designing and marketing upscale sportswear for Gordon Ford Showrooms on the 79th floor of the Empire State Building and eventually returned home to Steamboat where she become the owner of the Storm Hut.

"Here in Steamboat, Doak and Skeeter were as close to a king and queen as we had," longtime friend and nationally known sportscaster Verne Lundquist said.

Lundquist said he hopes those who knew her will remember the woman known as "Skeeter" the way she appeared in a photograph taken after she presented Ricky Williams with the Doak Walker Award in January of 1999.

The photograph was taken as she walked off the stage after presenting the trophy to Williams. She was taking the place of her husband, the 1948 Heisman Trophy winner from Southern Methodist University who had recently died of complications from paralysis that resulted from a skiing accident. Holy Name Catholic Church hosted the services for Doak Walker almost three years ago. Lundquist recalled how the Werner children, at least Skeeter and Buddy, loved to go swimming when they were children. During one trip to the pool, Buddy and Skeeter had been charged with watching their younger brother, Loris, who still did not know how to swim. The outing came to an end with a lifeguard reviving Loris and Skeeter pointing her finger in her younger brother's face while giving him some friendly sibling advice.

"You understand you don't tell anybody about this," she said sternly, according to Lundquist

The pointed finger became a trademark, but the result of Loris nearly drowning resulted in a new strategy for dealing with baby brother.

"They convinced 'Bugs' (Loris) that the closer you got to a Hoover vacuum while it was running, the better the chance you would have of being sucked up inside of it," Lundquist said.

Then they sat Loris on the sofa with the vacuum in front of him, turned on the Hoover and took off for the swimming pool.

All three children reached the Olympics and alpine skiing fame. Skeeter started skiing when she was just 1 year old and was competitive by age 5. She won national junior championships in slalom and downhill competitions in 1948 and earned combined titles in 1949 and 1950.

In 1956, she was a member of the Olympic Alpine team that competed in Cortina, Italy, and she placed 10th in the downhill that year.

In 1955, she appeared on the cover of the November edition of Sports Illustrated.

That same year brother Buddy and future husband, Doak, were also featured on covers of the magazine.

"There is no doubt that Skeeter had a certain presence about her," former Olympian Gary Crawford said after the ceremony. "It was a privilege to have known that family and to have grown up around them."

Crawford said he had known Skeeter his entire life and can't begin to describe the impact that group of skiers had on his life and on the Winter Sports Club.

"They were the reason that skiers from my generation went to the Olympics," Crawford said.

At the end of the eulogy, Lundquist said in her final days, Skeeter's greatest desire was just to go home.

"Now she is home," Lundquist said as emotion overcame him. "God bless you Gladys, God bless you."

Comments

Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Requires free registration

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.