WJTV News Channel 12 - Funeral director recalls final call from distraught Durham man

Funeral director recalls final call from distraught Durham man

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DURHAM, N.C. -

Those who knew Derek Walker, who died Tuesday after a showdown involving Durham Police, remembered him as a positive person who cared about others.

"When he comes around, he just makes the atmosphere change," said Franklin Hanes, the owner of the Hanes Funeral Service, where Walker worked.

"He was a loveable person. Also, too, he loved his son. That's all he talked about all the time," said William Rankins, a friend and co-worker.

Robert Curtis, another friend, said, "Derek is an upbeat, live, makes you laugh once he walks in front of your face. I just -- I'm having a hard time taking it because I know him."

The optimism was gone early Tuesday morning when friends read Walker's suicidal rant on Facebook expressing his anger over a custody battle with his son.

Walker posted the chilling update, in which he expressed his desire to end his life after he said he lost his son in a custody battle, at 12 a.m. Tuesday morning.

"We knew right then, at 2 o'clock in the morning, and people started calling, 'Something's wrong with Derek.' When I looked at it, the first three words, that is not him," Hanes recalled.

Hanes said that at about the time of the standoff with police, Walker called him.

"He just said, 'I want you to bury me in my funeral suit.'

"I said, 'No, because we have two funerals this week and you've got to be here to do these funerals. Everybody loves you. People [have] been calling.'" Hanes said. "He listened to me about two minutes but he was crying the whole time -- hard.

"And, he said, 'I love you.' And that was it."

Now, Hanes faces the reality of Walker's last wish.

"You have to be strong to be a funeral director because if you don't, every funeral will get you," Hanes said. "But now, I'm strong, but this one has took its toll on me."

A funeral for Walker will be held Monday at 2 p.m. at Fisher Memorial United Holy Church.

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Justin Quesinberry

Justin is a reporter for WNCN and a North Carolina native. He has spent the better part of the last decade covering the news in central North Carolina.  More>>

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