Walter E. Vanderburg, a lifelong resident of Norman, passed away Tuesday morning, January 26, 2021, at age 93. A father of five, grandfather of nine, and great-grandfather of 23, he was beloved by many, respected for his integrity and work ethic, and a generous neighbor to all.
Born of humble means in a working class family, he was raised during the Great Depression. In many ways, work defined much of his life. As a young teenager, he washed dishes, worked in a factory building planes during World War II, served in the Merchant Marines, picked fruit in California, and labored in a lumber yard — all before he turned 21. He was mentored and counseled by his lumber yard employer, who encouraged him to build — by his own hand — a home when he and the love of his life, Barbara Waggoner, decided to get married in 1948. He was the first in his family to “own” a home, and in that home, he and Babe raised their five children, Walter E. “Tinker” Jr., Donna, Patricia, Peggy and Teri.
He then went to work for Oklahoma Natural Gas Company, where he worked for over three decades, retiring in the early 1980s. To make ends meet for his young family, he moonlighted doing lawn work to pay for health care and as a plumber helping his friend and partner start a thriving business. Rather than stay with the new business, Walt opted to remain a loyal and hardworking ONG employee, and there he made friendships that have remained strong even until death.
For years, he was in the Poor Boys Lions Club, the ONGoers, election poll worker, and a member of CrossPointe Church, where he thrived on greeting almost everyone during the service’s welcome.
In 1967, Walter and Barbara took a leap of faith risking their small savings to bid on a piece of property along the Canadian River and, beyond their wildest expectations, succeeded. This property, initially without access by any road, was their dream, and on it they eventually built a home in 1982. It became a community gathering place where their grandchildren and great-grandchildren roamed freely, they raised cattle and vegetables, welcomed bird-watchers, and celebrated holidays, weddings and many happy occasions. When Barbara died in 1994, Walt continued to care for this place they had built together, and learned to freeze and can the vegetables his garden produced.
A strong and vibrant man, Walt lived a long and productive life, surrounded and cared for by his children and grand-children, his cousin Danny Vanderburg who visited him daily cooking his breakfast for many years, and countless friends who dropped in just to say hello. A childhood friend of his children, Marilyn Langley, provided care and companionship the last few months. Walter was able to stay in his home up until the day he died because of these caregivers and the selfless support and care of his son and local daughters, their spouses and grandchildren.
Walter is survived by all five of his children, Walter E. “Tinker” Jr. and Mary Vanderburg of Norman; Donna Murphy and Mark Mesiti-Miller of Santa Cruz, CA; Patty Richards of Fort Gibson; Peggy and Pat Smith of Norman; and Teri and John Orth of Norman; nine grandchildren, T.J. Vanderburg and spouse Jennifer of Wichita Falls, TX, Matt Vanderburg and spouse Kat of Canyon, TX, Michael Murphy and spouse Amber of Durant, OK, Patrick Murphy and partner Melony of Durant, OK, Kacy Speir and spouse Marshall of Muskogee, OK, Chris Richards and spouse Laura of Ft. Gibson, OK, James Smith and spouse Dannella of San Antonio, TX, Jessica Giessmann and spouse Doug of Norman, OK, and Brandon Thompson and spouse Olivia of Norman, OK; and 22 great-grandchildren with another great and one great-great-grandchild on the way. He was preceded in death by his great-grandson, Rylan Thompson; his sons-in-law, Lee Richards and Michael Murphy; all four of his younger siblings; and his parents, Floyd and Ruby Vanderburg.
Memorial gifts may be made to the CrossPointe Church, notation: Walter E. Vanderburg “Bootstrap” Fund, at 2601 SE 24th Avenue, Norman, OK 73071; or to a charity of your choice.
To plant a tree in memory of Walter Eddie Vanderburg, please click here.