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Saluting our dads: The Walker family and father John

There is a proud tradition of sports in southeastern Connecticut. And while it may be impossible to identify one man as its patriarch ... John Walker may still qualify.

The Walkers.

The first family of sports in this region.

John and Kathy Walker were married for 58 years. Six children and 23 grandchildren who have made the major leagues and played Division I college football and in the National Football League.

They've coached state championship teams, won state championship games and did it all with a grace that defined the elegance of John and Kathy's marriage.

"My Dad has been a rock of stability in our family from as early as I can remember," daughter Liz Sutman wrote. "No one I've ever know exudes 'strength' more than he. From his size and physical strength to his strength of character, strength of conviction and mental toughness ... he never wavered from being loyal, consistent, reliable and always put his family first no matter what life threw at him."

Added son Andy, who like Liz has coached Waterford High School to a state softball championship: "What my father has meant to our family is impossible to encapsulate in a few words. The best thing he ever did was marry my mother. The second best thing was being the greatest role model for the entire Walker Clan for the last 63 years. His love of family is his greatest gift given to all his children. 'Family is Everything' is a constant refrain from my father ... not mere words ... he's lived it every day of his life and continues to.

"His loyalty to family, faith in God, belief that every problem has a solution, and incredible strength he demonstrates daily is why he will forever be our hero. Dad, you are loved, respected, admired, and treasured by all of us. We have been blessed to have you as our father."

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