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Government, Politics & Issues

Hundreds celebrate former state Rep. Cora Faith Walker’s life and advocacy work in St. Louis

Family, friends and elected officials embrace after a memorial service.
Brian Munoz
/
St. Louis Public Radio
Family, friends and elected officials mourn the death of Cora Faith Walker on Friday after a public memorial service for the 37-year-old at the Friendly Temple Baptist Church in north St. Louis.

Hundreds of family, friends and elected officials gathered at Friendly Temple Baptist Church in north St. Louis on Friday to celebrate the life of Cora Faith Walker.

Walker served as chief policy officer for St. Louis County Executive Sam Page and previously worked in a variety of advocacy and political roles, including a time in the Missouri House of Representatives.

Those who worked with Walker lauded her for her selflessness and for being an advocate for marginalized communities.

Natalie Witcher, a family friend, recalled a conversation with Walker in which she said she was tired of knocking on doors and having her message fall on deaf ears. Witcher said Walker expressed the need “to be on the inside to bring about true change.”

The change Walker brought during her tenure was of note, said those who remembered her work. While serving in the state legislature, she secured more than $10 million in funding to provide better health care for Missourians — including reducing the cost of health care for women and children of color.

State and St. Louis-area municipalities and organizations offered formal resolutions honoring Walker, including the Missouri House of Representatives, the Missouri Senate, the City of Ferguson and St. Louis Public Schools.

Political leaders spoke about Walker’s tenacity and innovative thinking for those in need. Rep. Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, Missouri House minority leader, recalled when she and Walker met after the 2016 elections and were later sworn in together.

“We, along with one of the most talented group of people I know, worked together to take Jefferson City by storm,” Quade said to the gathering of about 400. “We didn’t care what had always been done or what was too hard. We knew the only option was to create change.”

Quade said she learned several things from Walker: how not to be scared of opposition, finding kindness in those you disagree with and how to present dissent in the most professional way.

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Brian Munoz
/
St. Louis Public Radio
County Executive Sam Page and his wife, Jenny, walk toward the entrance of the Friendly Temple Baptist Church on Friday before a memorial service for Cora Faith Walker, the county chief policy officer.

Sam Page, St. Louis County executive, noted Walker’s energetic disposition and willingness to get to work on the issues she was passionate about — whether it was 6 in the morning during the week or in the middle of the day on a holiday.

“She was a voice of women, of newborns, of trans people, of people with disabilities, of the unhoused, of isolated seniors, of doctors and nurses and health care professionals,” Page said. “She brought policy to the county government to make people’s lives better right now. She made all of us better.”

But, Page said, nothing can prepare a parent for the untimely loss of a child. “Whether 7 or 37, they are our children. They carry our hopes, they are our gifts to the world,” he said. “We extend our deepest and most heartfelt sympathy to Cora's parents. She was a bright bulb and a wonderful gift.”

U.S. Rep Cori Bush, D-St. Louis County, spoke from the U.S. House floor, noting Cora Faith Walker was a “one-of-a-kind” leader.

“No matter the role she was called to serve in, Cora was unwavering in her commitment to uplifting those around her,” Bush said. “Above all else, she always stood for what's right. For herself, for her loved ones, for her neighbors, for St. Louis and for Missouri.”

St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones spoke about her relationship with Walker, whom she affectionately called her “junior.”

Jones said the first time she met Walker, she was drawn to her “like a moth to a flame.”

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Brian Munoz
/
St. Louis Public Radio
A van transports Cora Faith Walker’s family on Friday after a public memorial service for the 37-year-old at Friendly Temple Baptist Church in north St. Louis.

“I was impressed by the way your class, your quick wit and your beautiful smile that seemed to light up the room,” she said in an open letter to Walker. “Soon after we had coffee and you told me about your plans to run for state representative and I was all in.”

Jones recalled their later talks of being in politics as Black women, their love of hair and fashion and truly being a shoulder for each other to lean on –– even when it meant hearing some constructive criticism.

“The measure of a true friendship is one where you can accept and receive constructive criticism and adjust accordingly,” Jones said, adding she wishes Walker would have called her before cutting her husband Tim’s hair.

Jones designated March 18, 2022, as “Cora Faith Walker Day.” The announcement was met with a roar of applause.

Speaker after speaker noted Walker’s beautiful and infectious smile that would light up a room, her willingness to help others and her resilience in working through difficult situations.

With an invocation and benediction by Walker’s grandmother the Rev. Faye Pettus of the Baskin Chapel AME Zion Church, those in attendance shared embraces, laughs and memories of the 37-year-old.

“This moment is full of pain,” said Alisha Sonnier, a board member for St. Louis Public Schools, during her remarks at the service. “Today you can cry, you can mourn, you can be sad, you can be angry, but tomorrow we complete the mission."

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