In the last month of his father’s life, Randy Walker was sorting through some of his belongings when he came across a manuscript.
It was a thin collection of stories his father, Ewing Walker, had written about his childhood in Great Neck. Ewing Walker, 82, was suffering from lung cancer, barely able to speak, and would die just one month after he was diagnosed. But hearing those stories from his hospital bed comforted him, said Randy Walker, 48, who lives in the Upper East Side.
On Tuesday — what would have been his 83rd birthday — Ewing Walker’s “Growing Up in Great Neck” was published.
“I thought it was the perfect way to honor him,” Randy Walker said.
He first found the stories in June, hidden under a stack of old photos in Ewing Walker’s Peekskill apartment. It detailed his father’s adventures from 1941 through 1947, which included his search for German submarines on Long Island Sound and his shenanigans at Kensington Elementary School. He lived in Great Neck until 1953, when he left to attend Cornell University, and he later became an independent computer contractor.
Over the course of a month, Randy Walker slowly read the stories to his father at his bedside, while running a dictation app on his phone in order to digitize the manuscript.
“It was obviously a scary time for him,” Randy Walker said of his father’s short battle with the disease. “I wanted to bring him back there, to what was probably the happiest and most innocent time of his life.”
Max Crisp always thought of Ewing Walker as a stepfather after his mother dated him for about a decade. He said he remembered hearing the stories as a child, and was “completely enamored” of them. Hearing them again while visiting him in the hospital was a “surreal experience,” Crisp said.
“It brought me back,” said Crisp, 42, of West Nyack. “It helped me remember when Ewing had first read me those stories and he was at his prime.”
While he was reading, Randy Walker said he noticed that his father had written a note on the manuscript that read, “Perhaps, like Emily Dickinson, I will become famous after death.”
“I knew as soon as I saw that, I had to publish this,” Randy Walker said.
Though father and son ran a small Manhattan-based book publishing company, New Chapter Press, Randy Walker said his father was such a modest man that he wouldn’t have thought to publish his own work.
So after his father’s death, Randy Walker started getting the manuscript in shape. He lightly edited sections, had a cover designed and published the book through his own company.
Randy Walker said he doesn’t expect to make any money on the book, but the experience was cathartic.
“Working on this was the best way I could cope with it,” he said. “It’s what got me through this difficult time, focusing on something other than your mortality.”