Tracey Walker leans into the coffin of her husband, Joe Walker, on Friday with Joe’s children, Brandon and Bethany Welsh, at the East Auburn Baptist Church. Joe Walker was killed at Schemengees Bar & Grille in the Oct. 25 mass shooting. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

AUBURN — There’s no making sense of the death of Joe Walker and so at his funeral service Friday night, nobody tried real hard to do so. 

Instead, they told stories about the popular 57-year-old slain in a mass shooting in Lewiston last month. They laughed over wild tales from Joe’s life and times. They hugged a lot and wept as they came to grips with exactly how much has been lost. 

The visitation was officially between 3 and 5 p.m. at East Auburn Baptist Church, but people started showing up shortly after 2 p.m. It didn’t take long before hundreds were crammed into the church aisles and hallways as well as the parking lot out front. 

For Leroy Walker Jr., father of the fallen, it was a sweet, sweet affair. 

“There are so many people,” Walker said, standing next to his son’s casket and greeting one person after another. “I have no clue how many. So many people loved Joe and I think there’s a few who love me, too.” 

No doubt about it. Several people who jammed the church didn’t know Joe at all. But they know and respect Leroy and so they came to be there for him in the wake of the tragedy. 


Leroy Walker reacts in grief after embracing the body of his son, Joe Walker, Friday at the East Auburn Baptist Church. Walker was killed at Schmengees Bar and Grill in the mass shooting Oct. 25 in Lewiston. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

“He’s such a nice man,” Josette Malacaria said. “Everybody loves Leroy.” 

In the hours before the funeral service, mourners clustered in groups in the church hallways or in the parking lot. Some of the huddles were solemn and wet-eyed affairs. Most were jovial. These were groups of Joe’s longtime friends who gathered together to talk about the old days. 

“Right now we’re just remembering all the good stuff,” one man said. 

“And there’s a whole lot of that,” added another. 

The funeral service itself was a mix of lightheartedness and anguish. When Joe’s daughter, Bethany Welch, shared memories of her Dad, so many people wept in the pews that several boxes of tissues were passed around and a whole lot of people needed them.

“My Dad was always there for me,” Bethany said, weeping as she recalled her father taking training wheels off her bike, teaching her how to drive or helping her to move into her own apartment. “My Dad has always been there to support me. I would always call him when life was getting to be too much to handle.” 


Just hearing his voice, she said, was enough to soothe her.

Like others, Bethany recalled how often her father was there for other people, too. It was a theme repeated over and over throughout the night. 

“My Dad would be the first to take the shirt off his back for someone,” Bethany said. “He never asked for anything in return because his actions were always selfless.” 

Brenda Henry, right, is comforted Friday after the funeral of Joe Walker at the East Auburn Baptist Church. Henry was one of Walker’s closest friends and spoke at the service. Walker was killed at Schemengees Bar & Grille in the Oct. 25 mass shooting in Lewiston. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Pastor Craig Fortin stood at the podium and looked out on the sea of people who had come to pay tribute to Joe. 

“I was told that his passion was for people, and that it didn’t matter if they were family, friends or just an acquaintance,” the pastor said, “and that’s evident by the turnout today. The loss of Joe has left a huge void in many hearts and lives.” 

There was weeping, yes, and in some cases outright sobbing. But as the service continued, the hundreds in attendance also heard funny stories about Joe. They watched a slideshow featuring goofy photos of the man — in one, Joe is seen sitting atop a child’s ride and grinning like a grown up kid. In others, he’s pictured hanging out next to a pool table or smiling for the camera at a Red Sox game. 


Brenda Henry, one of his closest friends, joked that she and Joe used to bicker with each other so much, some people thought they were husband and wife. She talked about all the times Joe enlisted her for assistance with organizing charity events to help other people. 

“We did lots of benefits together,” Henry said. “We did a lot of fundraising together. We helped so many people in the community. Joe was a man that would do just about anything for anyone.” 

Mourners look Friday into the open casket of Joe Walker at the East Auburn Baptist Church during his funeral. Walker was killed at Schemengees Bar & Grille in the Oct. 25 mass shooting in Lewiston. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Pastor Jon Case talked about Joe’s legacy — a legacy of being a loyal friend, a hard worker and a man who was always willing to jump in to help those who were down and out. 

“It’s absolutely amazing what this man accomplished,” Case said. “It’s absolutely amazing what he was willing to do… He left us with a legacy of love. 

“He was a man of action,” the pastor said, “and his action was to improve the lives of everyone around him.”

Pallbearers carry the coffin of Joe Walker from the East Auburn Baptist Church on Friday. Walker was killed at Schemengees Bar and Grille in the Oct. 25 mass shooting in Lewiston. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

In everyone who spoke Friday night, there was a tangible sense of overwhelming loss, and in some instances, a sense of disbelief that Joe is really gone. He seemed like the kind of guy who would always be around, they said, a constant joy in their lives. 


Outside the church, Maria Pete, a family friend, recalled how just weeks before the shootings, Joe had gone to her mother’s house to work on her electrical system. 

“He came over just to do that,” Pete said. “And I met him at the door and gave him a big hug. I hadn’t seen him in a while so that was really nice. I ended up leaving and that was that.” 

Two and a half weeks later, Pete said, she learned that Joe was one of the 18 people killed in the Oct. 25 mass shooting at two recreational businesses in Lewiston. It stunned her as it stunned so many. She went to the funeral Friday night because, like so many others, she needed to say goodbye. 

“It’s tough,” Pete said. “It’s hard and it’s sad. People need closure.” 

Gov. Janet Mills was among those who attended the service. Mayor Jason Levesque was there as was City Manager Phil Crowell.

Davinci’s, a Lewiston restaurant, sent food for the family after the service.


The hearse carrying the body of Joe Walker prepares to depart the East Auburn Baptist Church on Friday after Joe Walker’s funeral. Walker was killed at Schemengees Bar & Grille in the Oct. 25 mass shooting in Lewiston. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Before she left the podium, Joe’s daughter, Bethany, talked about how terrified she is about moving into the future without her father’s guidance and support. In one way, though, she knows that her dad will always be with her. 

“You will always be the first thing I carry in my heart and soul,” she said, “everywhere I go.” 

Likewise, Pastor Case said it feels like the whole community has come to respect and admire what Joe Walker achieved in his lifetime of hard work, good will and friendship to all. The lessons he taught us all, the pastor said, are many. 

“I think I can learn from Joe today,” Case said. “What a legacy.” 

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