Starting today I am introducing a new series of columns in which I will feature people who either have made a difference or are making a difference in Carbon county.
Most people have interesting stories and we try to cover these in our stories and photos, but often in the newspaper business I run across a person whose actions and attitudes dramatically change other people's lives. Certainly it doesn't always have to be an elected official or even a community leader. Sometimes the quietist, most unassuming people, who work hard in the background, end up to be those who change and influence others and all our futures.
Since I started thinking about this type of column I have considered many different people I have met and worked with in Carbon county that fit into this category. I have only resided here for two years and yet have met hundreds of people who I could write about. Carbon county, with its diversity in people and jobs is truly a unique place and I have never lived in a place where people have so much passion for life and determination to create a better world for their communities and families.
It is with these thoughts in mind that I selected my first feature person. Interestingly enough, I never met Walt Axelgard, but I know a couple of his sons and I have heard his name in many circles.
He passed away in March, just a few weeks ago, at the age of 82. In his obituary it read that he was an athlete, soldier, mainstreet businessman, mayor, a member of the Elks, a mason, an avid golfer, and a cherished father, husband and friend. But after listening to his family and friends talk, I have found that he was much more and because of the "more" I want to reflect on Walt Axelgard as a "heart" of Carbon county.
Certain words keep repeating themselves when people talk of Mr. Axelgard. Words like respectable, valued mentor, knowledgeable, a team player, true public servant, noble, honest, and integrity.
He was a man's man and a supporter of others. As one person stated last week, "He was the John Wayne of Carbon County," He loved Carbon County, moving here when he was seven years old from Duchesne and was fond of people here. "He never forgot where he came from," was a comment that was made at his funeral.
The image of Carbon county as a melting pot, a diversity of cultures and a community of hard workers appealed to Walt. He took his love for this area and built an incredible life, business and reputation.
A couple turning points in his life were very significant. One came when he was a junior in high school when Coach Pres Summerhays put his arm around Walt and asked him to join the athletic program. It was at a point in Walt's life when he was questioning school and struggling. However, once he started playing football and basketball, things began to change.
Another time came, at 20 years old, when he joined the service. It was there, in World War II, that he learned valuable lessons, like expecting performance and always supporting others and giving credit where it was due. He thought things through and tried always to stay calm. I have heard more than once that this was the generation of men who served the world.
He served as city councilman for two full terms and was elected another two terms as mayor of Price. We were fortunate to have a man of his caliber in office to lead the area through the growth and many changes that occurred during some of the boom years of the area. It was during his second term as mayor when he was asked to serve as chairman of the State Industrial Commission. He took what he had learned in the business world and applied it to politics. Walt strived to have people and agencies be accountable and responsible.
Most of all he was a team player and always shared his glory and accomplishments with the people on his many teams. "He was a true public servant," another community member pointed out. He never lost sight of the reason he was serving and that is the true legacy he has left Carbon county. It's not often that a person of his status can go through life without a special agenda and know instinctively what needs to be done for the betterment of the community.
Walt directly or indirectly made a difference is many people's lives. He was a true mentor to his fellow men. This observation is obvious by listening to other people talk about his accomplishments and his legacy.
He truly left a legacy in Carbon county. And with that legacy he left the true meaning of the words noble, respectable, honest and integrity.