Interviews Sketch Michael Walker As Product of Unstable Family Life
Jun. 17, 1985
NORFOLK, Va. (AP) _ Michael Walker's odyssey ended in an American tragedy.
Just as marriage brought the 22-year-old sailor the stability, love and happiness he had sought in his wanderings, he was charged last month with being part of a Soviet spy ring allegedly directed by his father, a former Navy warrant officer.
In interviews, Michael's wife, friends and a teacher said they knew him as a likeable person who would help anybody.
''He never really felt the stability of a family life and then when I came along I gave him something he couldn't get from either one of the other half of the family,'' said his wife, Rachel.
''It was just somebody he could talk to, spend his time with, he could trust. I was his best friend, something his mother and father probably never were to him.''
Michael drifted back and forth between his mother, Barbara Crowley Walker, and his father, John A. Walker Jr., after their divorce in 1976.
First he went with his mother to Skowhegan, Maine, a mill town of 7,500 along the Kennebec River. The father stayed in Norfolk.
Michael never fit in. His hair was long. He had few friends. He had a minor scrap with the law when police tried to enforce an old loitering statute.
He was suspended from junior high school for a brief time because of behavioral problems. As he seemed headed for bigger trouble, he was placed in an alternative tutorial program for adults where he did well.
''He didn't like Maine,'' said his wife, who will be 23 next month. ''It was cold. This is a small town that he lived in and he was used to living in San Francisco, San Diego, Norfolk, all the big Navy port towns where his father was. He wasn't used to living in a small town where there wasn't any ocean or any sea or he didn't have a lot of friends.''
Michael returned to Norfolk and enrolled in August 1980 at the Ryan Upper School, a small private high school.
''He liked a good time, partying, dancing, riding his bicycle and skateboard and surfing,'' said Robbie Bastian, a neighbor, classmate and close friend.
Joyce Bastian, Robbie's mother, who was the Walkers' next door neighbor for 10 years, said ''Mike knew more about life than two-thirds of the kids in school.
''He knew how to handle himself with women. He was very polite. He opened doors. He spent money on girls. They fell all over him.
''Mike went to bars a lot earlier and had more access to beer and liquor. He liked to hang out at Virginia Beach. He hung around with long hair, hippie- type kids,'' she said.
But by the time Michael started in Ryan school, he had changed. He had cut his hair and didn't run around with the same crowd.
''He was very much left alone at home,'' Mrs. Bastian said. ''He did a great job raising himself. He took care of all the housework. He was constantly working around the house.''
Kitty Baker, one of Michael's teachers, said he was an average to below average student struggling between Cs and Ds.
''He was not a particularly profound thinker,'' she said. ''He was more of a follower than a leader. He was eager to please.''
Michael graduated in 1982. About the same time, he met Rachel, then 19. He entered the Navy in December 1982 on a deferred basis, having enlisted his senior year at Ryan.
On each date, he brought Rachel a long-stemmed red rose.
''He treated me like a lady and not like just another girl,'' she said. ''At 19, guys are, I'll be honest with you, just out for whatever. Our relationship was not based on that. We dated. We were friends before. We enjoyed each other's company. We both enjoyed the sea. Everything we made plans for revolved around surfing. He was a surfing nut.''
They eloped to Virginia Beach a week before Christmas in 1983.