The community of Bowling Green State University gathered to celebrate the life of the late student David “Ryan” Walker II, at a memorial organized by Morgan Lunsford on Saturday, Nov. 19.
Walker was killed in a four-vehicle crash caused by a suspected drunk driver on U.S. 6 near milepost 5 in Madison Township, on Sept. 4, 2022.
During the celebration of life, BGSU presented Walker’s family with his bachelor’s degree.
David and Belinda Walker, Walker’s parents are heartbroken by the loss of their son, but the presentation of his degree for his time spent at BGSU provided some relief.
“He is the first to get a degree so that is an accomplishment in itself, that has brought a lot of sunshine into my life,” Belinda said.
Walker was an accomplished student, as he was in his third year of pursuing his degree in business administration with a specialization in accounting at the Allen W. Carol M. Schmidthorst College of Business.
Thompson Working Families Scholars sponsored Walker’s celebration of life to show gratitude for his dedication to the organization. Walker also recently completed an internship over the summer at NASA.
“Every parent thinks the world of their kid, for the most part, but this kid truly was a parent’s dream,” David said. “Really, he was. No worries about him ever.”
Eduardo Santos, Walker’s older brother, attended the celebration of life and wants those who also attended to not only celebrate his life and understand how precious life is but also understand the impacts of bad decisions.
“Today is a celebration of life for my brother, David Ryan Walker, Bowling Green junior, dear to us and clearly dear to the falcon community. We’re just celebrating his life and his accomplishments, and we just found out that we’re going to be celebrating the fact that he earned his bachelor’s degree,” Santos said.
Walker and his brother were 18 years apart, but Santos said he was astonished by the example he led over his 20 years of life.
“He was my baby brother, Ryan was great he was always a hard worker. He was the type of kid that made difficult tasks seem easy, I’m not sure how he did it but I was always proud of him… Ryan just made everyone proud, from the time he was in school, in sports, the way he was able to balance everything, he was a family man, he was a good friend, he was always on the right path, he was a strong devout Christian, so he’s strong in faith and he managed to make it all look easy… he set a true example, even for his older siblings,” Santos said.
At the celebration, friends and family took the podium to share their favorite memories of Walker.
“He was a person that had depth and he sees the beauty in people and he draws them out,” Belinda said. “If you don’t think you are, he’s going to make sure that you know that you are.”
David and Belinda don’t want their son’s death to become another statistic so they plan on speaking to legislators for increased safety features in vehicles.
“I don’t want Ryan to just be another statistic, he can’t be, something needs to be done,” Belinda said.
Walker’s parents are still left with many unanswered questions and they urge the state to crack down harder on drunk driving.
“It’s just crazy how the whole thing goes, they’re in the back seat, they’re seat belted, which they don’t have to be, and the two kids in the front one broke an arm and the other just minor scratches, so you’re thinking well if it was a head-on how in the world could the guys in the back [get hurt],” David said.
On Sept. 4, Walker was in a vehicle with three other BGSU students, traveling back to the campus after a fun night of hanging out with friends.
BGSU third-year student Steven Iwanek has known Walker since they were five to six years old. They grew up together, playing on the same sports team, attending the same high school and eventually coming to college together despite their different majors.
“It was really a blessing when I look back at things because you meet some people in high school and you be friends with them, but then you lose touch with them. So to have a guy like him in my life, where I could always go to for anything related in my life, not just college, it was really special to me,” Iwanek said.
Iwanek was the driver of the vehicle that got hit on Sept. 4.
“It was such a scary scene, three [cars] were hit in the accident and 11 people got injured and unfortunately for him, even though he was being responsible, we weren’t drinking, there were no drugs, he had his seatbelt on, unfortunately just some bad things happen at the wrong time,” Iwanek said.
Iwanek described Walker as a smart, humble and loyal man who truly loved his friends and family. Walker always made sure he had a smile on his face.
“What separated him, was that if you weren’t with him for an event or a regular hangout with friends, it really made him, in his own way, disappointed. Not because he was mad at you, but because he wanted you to be there and I think that’s really special. Sometimes you have friends that you pick and choose when you want to be with them, but for him, all of his friends he wanted them all together, he wanted like a Thanksgiving Dinner every time we got together because he really, truly cherished each one of us,” Iwanek said.
Walker’s family is starting a foundation for Bowling Green and Firelands falcons to provide scholarships for those going to college for the first time.
“Our goal is to start a Falcon Foundation because Ryan was a Firelands falcon growing up, and he’s a Bowling Green Falcon, so with that, we really want to give to students in the Bowling Green community, anyway we can… and also in the Firelands community which is where he went to high school, and so we want to help with expenses for those going to college for the first year and so any donations would be would be welcome,” Santos said.
On Nov. 24, a free 5K will take place at Walker’s high school and the foundation plans to host events like golf outings in his name.
“We love to just get the community together to see what Ryan meant to everybody and it really helps the family. It really does bring some closure and some warmth in a cold time,” Santos said.