Public radio producer and STLPR reporter Melody Walker dies
Longtime public radio journalist and producer, wonderful friend, loving mother, sister and partner Melody Walker died of cancer at home on March 4.
She was 62 and lived in the Central West End neighborhood of St. Louis.
Walker comes from several generations of pioneering Midwestern journalists and editors. She began reporting at the age of 10 for her father, Hayes Walker III, who published the cattle magazine, The Hereford Journal.
She became a radio journalist in Kansas City at age 16.
Walker graduated from Barnard College with a degree in philosophy and, as a student, was invited by CBS veteran Fred Friendly to work with him on a PBS series. She ran the news department for WKCR, Columbia University’s radio station, overseeing a team of 40 reporters. She’s done everything from covering the United Nations General Assembly to producing live jazz shows from clubs in the Morningside Heights neighborhood.
Walker has had a distinctive and award-winning career in public radio. As soon as she graduated from Barnard, she brought her fluency in French and her journalism skills to Europe.
In the early 1980s, Walker reported from Paris for NPR, Deutsche Welle and Radio France, among others. She has covered the terrorist attacks, French politics, the champagne trade, the 40th anniversary of D-Day and the Cannes Film Festival.
There, she was discovered by a film producer and chosen to play Joan of Arc in a TV movie. Walker has also produced various jazz and classical concerts in the United States and Europe for distribution by Ofreidia, a French production company.
Walker returned to the United States and became lead producer for the “Lenny Lopate Show” at the WNYC.
In 1989, she was hired as New York and later Chicago bureau chief for the public radio commercial program “Marketplace”. During this time she had her two children, Kyle and Blair, whom she later raised in Chicago, Paris, New York and St. Louis.
“Melody was a gifted reporter with great storytelling skills and a sense of humor that made the eyes and ears of all who enjoyed her reporting shine,” recalls “Marketplace” founding executive producer Jim Russell. “I remember his colorful reporting best from France – hearing him was almost as good as being there yourself.”
Walker also wrote and produced commentary for renowned CBS Radio personality Charles Osgood. She was proud of her one-on-one interviews with Amazon’s Jeff Bezos; Thomas Watson, then CEO of IBM, and publisher Malcolm Forbes.
In St. Louis, Walker handled marketing communications for St. Louis University and Washington University’s Olin Business School.
She returned to public radio briefly in 2018 as a business and economic development reporter for St. Louis Public Radio.
She balanced her professional accomplishments with civic duty. Walker has served as an officer and board member of the Central West End Association and STL Village, an on-site seniors service and advocacy organization.
Walker loved France and all things French, Halloween, dinner parties, perfect croissants, champagne, the Missouri Botanical Garden, tending his own garden and greenhouse, spying on bunnies and butterflies. She was happier in Paris and New York.
She is survived by her two children, Kyle Walker O’Brien of Paris and Blair Walker O’Brien of Manhattan; his partner, John Barth of St. Louis; his mother, Claudette; and his sister, Hayley, and brother-in-law Jack Rees of Kansas City. And also Cooper, from Manhattan, the only dog she ever loved.
His family says loved ones can honor his life by making donations to the STL Village or the Missouri Botanical Garden.
A celebration of Walker’s life will be held in June.
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“Walker and Cooper, her little dog and the only dog she ever loved.
Walker and Cooper, her little dog and the only dog she ever loved.
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— Walker loved Halloween, butterflies and French champagne.
Walker loved Halloween, butterflies and French champagne.
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Walker also handled press and communications at the University of Washington’s Olin School of Business.
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“Walker didn’t like cattle. She spent a lot of time with cattle ranchers because of the industry magazines her father published.
Walker didn’t like cattle. She spent a lot of time with cattle ranchers because of the industry magazines her father published.
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– Walker worked as a reporter for KUDL-AM in Kansas City while in high school.
Walker worked as a reporter for KUDL-AM in Kansas City while in high school.
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— Poster for an event in Marseilles, France, where Walker discussed the influence of American news media on French culture.
Poster for an event in Marseille, France, where Walker discussed the influence of American news media on French culture.
This recollection was written by John Barth, partner of Melody Walker and veteran of public and commercial radio.