By Jennie Zeitler
Walt Junkin is known for his moving renditions of “Taps” at area military funerals and ceremonies. Many people also know him for his career as a professional photographer. Both careers have filled Junkin’s life.
He grew up in Fargo, where he was paid for his first photo in seventh grade, for a potluck slumber party. He photographed his first wedding in ninth grade, also doing the processing at home.
He had transformed a room in his parents’ basement into a darkroom, enabling him to process black and white photos.
“I bought a Kodak processing kit,” he said. “I still have some of the equipment.”
Junkin’s musical experiences began even earlier, when he took trumpet lessons in fourth grade at Clara Barton School.
“I had piano lessons too, but I liked trumpet better,” said Junkin. “I joined the musicians’ union when I was a senior in high school. I was paid $3 an hour plus an extra $1 on Saturday nights.”
Long before the post-secondary education opportunity (PSEO) program became a reality, Junkin took a class at Concordia College in Moorhead during his senior year of high school, trumpet lessons.
He majored in music with a speech correction major at North Dakota State University. While enrolled there, he also took classes at what was then called Moorhead State Teachers College.
During the summer after his freshman year, he went on the road with The Territory Band out of Omaha.
“We practiced every day and played seven days a week,” he said.
After college, he put his focus on photography for his daytime career and gained musical experience at night.
“I liked playing in dance bands and thought being a high school band director would be a conflict,” he said. “I stuck with photography.”
For about three years, he ran his own dance band.
In 1954, he married Karen, his wife of 58 years. She passed away in 2012. They moved to Sauk Centre in 1956 and built a home on South Main Street in 1963. They raised three children and have three grandsons.
Junkin Studio operated from the Junkin home for 40 years before he retired in 1995.
“I was known mainly for my weddings,” said Junkin. “I was dumb enough to do five in one day once. I did everything from aerial to commercial to portrait photography.”
Karen did oil color work for her husband.
His most famous photograph was taken after attending a workshop in Pennsylvania, learning about an interior lighting technique.
“It was taken in 1980 in the choir loft of St. Paul’s in Sauk Centre, of Father Elmer Torborg,” Junkin said.
The photo received the Merit Award in 1980 from the Professional Photographers of America. It was given the Dworshak Award by the Minnesota Professional Photographers in 1981, with a judges’ choice ribbon.
During all those years, Junkin continued to play with bands such as the Alexandria Area Big Band and the Dick Thomas Orchestra from Clarissa. He also played “Taps” in all kinds of weather for many funerals and ceremonies. He retired from the band in the mid-2000s and from playing “Taps” in March after 58 years.
Junkin’s service to the community includes 58 years of perfect attendance at Lions Club meetings.
He and his family skied all over the country and he and his wife also took a 6,000-mile motorcycle trip across the United States each July for several years.
He plans to take it easy now.