His mother Lillie and her family traveled via covered wagon from Lander, Wyoming in 1898, and arrived in Healdsburg in 1900. His father Elmer came to Healdsburg in 1909 after leaving the Navy. Walter was born in Healdsburg on the morning of December 24, 1912. Dr. J. Walter Sewell, who Walter was named after, drove by horse and buggy the night before to stay with his mother Lillie until Walter arrived around 9:00a.m. Christmas Eve. When Walter was three and a half years old, his parents purchased a lot on Healdsburg Ave., (then called West St.) and they with his uncle, Roy Nickerson, built the family home. His parents had him drive the first nail so he would always remember his part in building the family home. The Murray family was devoted to God, family, friends and work. When Walter was 8 years old his grandfather, Sage Coe Nickerson, a Civil War veteran, lived with the family for 14 years. During his lifetime many cousins and other relatives also lived with the Murray family.
Walter started working when he was six years old and didn’t stop until he was 101 years old. His first entrepreneurial venture was raising and selling rabbits at age 8. When he was 18 years old he took over the Sunset Laundry from his father and operated that business for 40 years. He kept bees, was a premier red factor canary bird breeder for 70+ years, and built wooden fruit crates for 20 cents an hour.
In 2013, Walter was thrilled to discover that his maternal great-uncle, Herman Gould “Captain” Nickerson, helped found the state of Wyoming, was a signer of the state constitution, was a woman’s suffragist, helped mark the Oregon Trail with historical monuments, and was an Indian agent working under the command of Presidents Rutherford B. Hayes and William McKinley to repatriate land for the Arapahoe and Shoshone tribes on the Wind River Reservation.
Walter was the most kind, gentle, compassionate and loving person. He was deeply loved by many.
His spirit is carried on by an extended family of cousins and friends from every walk of life. We were blessed to learn many valuable lessons from Walter during his 103 years, among them: Never throw away burlap sacks, coffee cans, or denim overalls. Use the burlap to make a soft nest for baby canaries, put nails and tools of all kinds in coffee cans and make a quilt out of your overalls.
Also: if birds and other critters come around put out wild bird seed, plant kale, and cut up your homegrown oranges for them.