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Christopher W. Walker

Died: August 31, 2011

Christopher W. Walker, who died at home in Middleburg, Virginia, on August 31, 2011, at age 66, would tell his friends as an undergraduate at Yale that he was planning his life to reach a physical and spiritual peak. He became a prominent Washington area commercial real estate developer who had the time and resources to climb many of the world’s tallest mountains, including Mount Kilimanjaro and the Matterhorn. He took great care of his body but was unable at the end to fight off a deadly case of multiple myeloma.

Born in McCook, Nebraska, he grew up in Bethesda, Maryland. He attended St. Albans School in Washington before entering Yale. A psychology major, he went on to Harvard Law School in 1969 and then Harvard Business School, taking an M.B.A. in 1971.

As a body builder and tinkerer, he designed his own exercise machine. At Yale, he was a founder of a pioneering computerized dating service called Operation Match, which at least one Yale couple credits for their still-continuing marriage.

Chris was always fascinated by the stars and became a leading opponent of light pollution. He was a board member of the International Dark-Sky Association, which helps communities address problems with outdoor lighting to reduce glare and make the night sky more easily visible.

Besides scaling many peaks around the world, he paddled a kayak through the Grand Canyon.

He began developing commercial real estate in the Washington area in the early 1980s. He built an office building near Dupont Circle and became one of the first developers to start commercial projects in Reston, Virginia. Altogether, his 13 multimillion-dollar developments enclose more than 1 million square feet.

Chris helped found the Dulles Corridor Users Group, a nonprofit organization that seeks to make the Dulles toll road free to use. He filed a lawsuit on behalf of his nonprofit group against the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, arguing that the Dulles Toll Road violated Virginia law. He said the MWAA, which owns and operates the toll road, owed real estate owners as much as $200 million in toll money. He said the toll road hurt business owners and was a “cash cow” being used to help pay for the Metro extension to Dulles International Airport. In 2010 a U.S. District Court judge dismissed the case.

Chris is survived by his wife of 40 years, Helen Heisserer Walker of Middleburg, Virginia; two children, Ellen Walker of Paris and Evan Walker of Amsterdam; and two brothers, Jonathan Walker of Chevy Chase and Peter Walker of Sebastopol, California.

Thomas Wilner remembers:

Chris and I went to grade school and high school together and then to Yale, where we were both in Elihu. He was an extraordinarily bright and creative person. I was shocked by his death. I miss him and his honest, perceptive and, at times, outrageous comments.