Dennis Walaker

dennis walaker

Dennis Walaker was born in Fargo, ND on January 10, 1941. Dennis was the oldest son of Gladys and Ray Walaker Sr. The Walaker family lived in Leonard, North Dakota.  Dennis grew up with two brothers, Wallace and Ray, and one sister, Renae. They owned and operated Ray’s Amoco on Railroad Ave. on the corner of Fourth Street.  Dennis helped his father, as did all of the family, at the station.  Notably,  he and Ray Sr. brought heating oil in the worst of weather to the residents in and around Leonard, ND.

Attending Leonard high school, Dennis’ height helped him excel on the Panther basketball team. He went on to attend North Dakota State University and played basketball for the Bison.  He developed a lifelong love with North Dakota State University and the Thundering Herd.

Dennis married Mary Lund at the age of 25 in 1966 in Pelican Rapids, Minnesota. Dennis was devoted to his wife of 48 years after taking her on a blind date to The Erie 34 Supper Club near Detroit Lakes. He worked extensively on the construction of Interstate 94 and Interstate 29 while Mary was teaching in Pelican Rapids, MN. They started their married life together in Moorhead, MN, and it wasn’t long before they had to move to North Dakota as Dennis was required to live in the state where he worked. They moved to a basement apartment to be closer to Mary’s teaching job in West Fargo, ND. Their apartment was close to the Sheyenne River and it took only one time for the river to swell to encourage them to move. They purchased a home in south Fargo and welcomed their first daughter, Erin, into their lives. In preparation for their second daughter, Shannon, they decided a bigger place was needed. Dennis helped build the house for his family that he would live in for the rest of his life.

In 1989, Dennis was named Public Works Operations Manager for the City of Fargo and went on to gain local and national recognition as the man responsible for snow removal on the city streets. His watershed moment came in 1996 and 1997 when he was tasked with not only supervising the removal of record amounts of snow but the resulting record flooding from the snowmelt.  He retired from his post to use his experience to run the city as Mayor. He was elected to his first of three terms as Fargo Mayor on June 13, 2006. He is best known for inspiring the city of Fargo to stay and fight during the flood waters in 2009 when state and federal agencies strongly urged a complete evacuation order.  He is also well known for his demeanor and sense of humor during this very difficult time.  No one will forget his advice on how to conserve water to help save the city.

Dennis is survived by his wife, Mary (Lund) Walaker, his eldest daughter Erin Hall married to Tom Hall, their sons, his grandchildren Sam and Max Hall (Fargo, ND). His youngest daughter, Shannon Walaker (St. Petersburg, FL), his sister Renae (Walaker) Wenner married to Scott Wenner (New Caanan, CT), his nephew Christopher Wenner married to Whitney (MacDonnell) Wenner, their two children, Hudson and Cameron Wenner (Atlanta, Ga.), and his niece and goddaughter Kate (Wenner) Carey who is recently married to Jared Carey (West Deptford, NJ).

Dennis may have left this earth, but his legacy will live on not only as a great family man but a man who was devoted to a city that respected and appreciated him.  It is certain that if he were able, Dennis would want to personally thank each of the citizens of Fargo for their kind words and thoughtfulness towards his family after his death.

One last time for Dennis: for the strength of the Herd is the Bison and the strength of the Bison

Is the Herd.  GO BISON!

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Memories Timeline


  1. Cave Creek AZ
    Mary and family – it’s been many years since I’ve seen all of you, but I will always have fond memories of times all of us spent together at the lake and each other’s family’s homes. Dennis will be sorely missed. Hard to believe that both he and dad are gone now – and so close together. We didn’t have enough years with either of them. You are in my thoughts and prayers. Love — Jean Marie Harris (maiden name Welton)

    It has been a wonderful privilege and honor to have spent some time with you and your beloved Dennis.Words fail to be adequate in trying to express our sorrow and compassion for you.Our prayers will continue to ask for God’s blessingsto be showered upon you.

  3. Grand Forks ND
    I am saddened by Dennis’ passing, but also buoyed by the tremendous outreach to his family. I only worked with Denny on the periphery during some of the floods, and I believe I speak for my colleagues at the NWS when I say he will be missed.

  4. Moorhead Mnprayers to all of Dennis’ family. I feel he was also a mayor to Moorhead residents too he knew only the river divided us. I heard him speak at the Gladys Ray Shelter opening and knew he was a big gentle teddy bear. Rip Mr. Flood Fighter. Heaven has the best MAYOR they could ever have. He loves you all and God does too.

  5. Fargo ND
    I remember when I first moved here, shortly before the flood, and the city was lead by Mayor Walaker. I felt secure, safe, and steadfast in the feeling that we “would be taken care of” during a difficult time for the city of Fargo. I only knew of Mayor Walaker as a resident of Fargo, but I can say, he will be missed. The city was blessed and a better place for having had him in it. Thank you Dennis Walaker from so many of us.

  6. East Grand Forks MN
    I am so sorry for your loss Erin, and family. Your Dad was a man that I know you will always be proud of. God Bless.

  7. Hawley MN
    With sincere sympathy to your family at Denny’s loss. We are former Fargo residents voting for Denny and following his career with the city of Fargo. We have great admiration for all his work, he will be missed greatly.

  8. Moorhead MN
    My sympathy and prayers for comfort at this sad time, Mary and Family. I have admired and respected Dennis and the work he did since 1997. He helped many including us at Oak Grove fighting the flood. I was a teacher there at the time.

  9. Fargo ND
    My thoughts and prayers to the entire Walaker family. Dennis was a quiet star and one of the really good guys. He made us feel safe when nature did not. He called it the way he saw it and what you saw was what you got. He was larger than life and that’s how he loved Fargo. I smile as I remember his wonderful laugh. His life epitomized public service and I’ll miss him.

  10. I am so sorry to hear of your loss of Dennis.

    I remember Dennis and Mary supporting Shannon, Mindy and Angie (and the rest of the team) in their Fargo South basketball games. He and Roy were in there fighting/cheering for those girls.

    He was a man you don’t ever forget and will be painfully missed.

    God bless Dennis Walaker!

  11. Denny did so much for Fargo and he will be missed tremendously. Fargo will always be honored by what a great man he was for this city. Rest in Peace, Denny!

  12. Fargo ND
    I have fond memories of Mayor Walaker coming to Kennedy Elementary to be my guest reader for my Literacy Night and reading to my first graders! He was always willing to come and did many times.

    My prayers and thoughts are with you Erin, Tom, Sam and Max at this very difficult time.


  13. Dickinson ND
    I got to know Dennis back when I lived in Fargo in the early to mid 2000s, as he and I often had lunch at the same place (Bertrosa’s which was on 45th Street at the time). We both frequented the place enough that he often asked me to join his friends and him at their table, and I must say, I greatly enjoyed the conversations that ranged from local to national events, along with a number of jokes. It was a privilege to know him. My sympathy to his family and the citizens of Fargo.

  14. Moorhead MN
    Mary and family, my sympathy and prayers for comfort at this sad time of the loss of Dennis. I have admired him for many years. He helped us at Oak Grove in 1997. I was a teacher there and we truly appreciated Dennis. He has done so much for many people and was a great Mayor. I will miss him as many others will. Dennis was a very special man and I am sorry to hear of his loss.

  15. Just wish to add my sincere condolences to Mr. Walaker’s family, co-workers and friends. I never had the pleasure of meeting him personally, but felt like I knew him, simply from all his public exposure. I (like many, I’m sure) always felt safe and secure during times of (flood) crisis, knowing he was the man in charge. Truth be told, upon hearing of his unexpected death, the first thought that crossed my mind was, “oh no, I hope Fargo will be okay…”. You were a pillar, Mr. Mayor, and yes, as your daughter stated, you will be missed immensely by many. God bless….

  16. Fargo ND
    To the Walaker family – Dennis was bigger than life. Given many jobs – he finished them all with a “Job well done”. Dennis was a great friend of the construction industry. His word was his bond. God Bless.


    R. Tracy Myers, Retired President
    Olaf Anderson & Son Const. Co.

  17. Fargo ND
    Denny was such an inspiration to us. He was a humble, sincere, and caring man who truly represented the people of Fargo.
    His legacy will live on …..and on.

  18. Fargo ND
    My thoughts and prayers are with you at this difficult time. Dennis was a quiet star and one of the really good guys. He made us feel safe when nature did not. He had a great laugh I will never forget. He was loyal and honest and what you saw . . . was what you got! I’ll miss him. Thanks for sharing him with all of us.

  19. Sincere condolence to the family and friends of this unique man.
    Around 20 years ago I lived in an apartment near 25th street and 13th avenue south. This intersection was prone to flooding after heavy rain. During one of these storm drain back ups a city vehicle came along and out came a large man wearing rubber boots and carrying a rake. He quickly went to work clearing the debris and getting the flood water to drain away.
    I recognized him as the guy from TV who TALKED about city work and workers and there he was actually doing more than talk. It was very impressive seeing a General on the front lines fighting. Talk about fore-shadowing.
    Mayor Walaker was a fine example of what a pubic servant should be. He will be greatly missed.

  20. Fargo ND
    What a wonderful man Dennis was. I had great admiration for him. The best Mayor Fargo ever had. He can’t be replaced. He will be missed very much. Prayers and thoughts for the family he leaves behind.

  21. Fargo North Dakota
    Our family was stationed at Grand Forks AFB from 1991-94 AND then the Air Force sent us all the way 13 hundred + miles away to San Antonio, Texas. We missed the flood of 97, but Wow seeing/hearing of it and watching it later on Prairie Public TV was incredible. Retirement brought us back to the great state ( MY HOME STATE) of ND
    , but this time to Fargo. We voted for Dennis and he did a great job of promoting/being in favor of the diversion. I hope in the next few months of election either in March/April another person can fill Dennis’ big shoes. I love the Billboards up this week of him, and watching tonight the Tribute to Mr. Walaker on WDAY TV was great, You did a very great job of him. I truly know he will be missed by many citizens/local & state leaders as will his beloved wife, his 2 great daughters and the Grandchildren as also his extended family. I hope the city of Fargo names a street after you Denny. Hold on tight to all the great memories you have of him. RIP MR. Walaker.

  22. Fargo NdThank you Denny! You were a hero to Fargo! We all owe you so much, and yet you were always approachable. The world is a poorer place now that you are gone!! We love you Denny.

  23. Casselton ND
    My sympathy to the Dennis Walaker family. His endless love for his family and the City of Fargo will never be forgotten. Rest In Peace Dennis.

  24. I met Dennis Walaker the spring of 1997. The flood fight was shaping up. Mr. Walaker was hosting a going-away-appreciation gathering for Rocky Hager. Mr. Walaker coordinated payments for the Hager event with me & would visit at least once a week, until the event. Two things have stuck with me about Mr. Walaker from this: #1) He was able to juggle so many things at one time. He had a very sharp & agile mind. #2) When I expressed how nice it was that he was hosting the event for Rocky, who had just been let go from ND
    SU, Mr. Walaker said to me ” I know it’s not the political thing to do, but it is the RIGHT thing to do.” He was a man of his word.
    A great human being.

  25. I just wanted to pass my condolences on to the family of Denny. He was an amazing person in everything he did for this city and the people in it he will always be remembered. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family during this time.

  26. Des Moines IAMy sympathy to all the family at Dennis’ untimely death. He left us all a better world and we can be thankful having had him in our lives.

  27. Fargo N.d.What a huge loss for our city. We lost a great Mayor and wonderful man and a great leader all at the same time. Our deepest sympathy to his family and to the many, many friends this man has made along the way. He will be greatly missed by all.

  28. Fargo ND
    Dennis was well known for battling floods. I wrote a song about the “Red” after the 09 flood and gave a copy of this to Dennis. “Old Red” 1st verse and chorus are shown.

    Did God make a mistake when He made Old Red
    It should flow south but it flows north instead
    On up to Winnipeg it’s colder up there
    Old Red is rising God please hear our prayers
    With millions of sand bags and lots of dirt
    We’ll all come together will all come to work
    Building our dikes up to 43
    The highest they’ve ever been in our history
    Keep those sand bags coming
    Keep those diesel machines running
    Through the rain, the snow and the mud
    We’re going to fight this flood
    Divided we fall united we sand
    Divided we fall united we sand

  29. Valley City ND
    I sent this to him in 2009. Seems appropriate to repost now in honor, respect and gratefulness! You’ve *arrived Dennis Walaker!! Rest Peacefully and Thank You!

    *A Poem for Fargo’s Mayor Dennis Walaker*
    By: Jodi Rae Ingstad -Valley City, ND

    The winter was tough in Fargo this year.
    Still the people who lived there met snow with a cheer.
    This was a city where all that’s old hat.
    For in previous years a flood entered in,
    but so did a large man with a silly little grin.
    This man knows his water and the water knows him.
    Spring 1997 all looked quite grim.
    But this man is a leader, a fighter a friend.
    With a strong voice of leadership that knows when to bend.
    Just like a lion a new spring appeared.
    The Red River rose as the people all jeered.
    This flood was history, an epic, a menace,
    but it was no match at all for a man named Dennis!
    Dennis he led like a strong trusted steed while
    the citizens pitched in with anything of need.
    Sandbaggers they filled, they hoisted and threw,
    while police stayed busy doing what they do.
    Evacuations were necessary to find higher ground.
    ‘Tho Fargo likes to keep its citizens around.
    But as the Red River roared the people roared back.
    Some grabbed a shovel and some grabbed a sack.
    Some served food and left their own places
    to care for the displaced and share all their graces.
    Dennis stood firm in his fight and conviction
    to keep us all safe, all alive and all kick’in.
    What Dennis needs to know as he sighs with relief
    is the city of Fargo has amazing belief.
    In him as a leader, a friend and a Mayor,
    a citizen, a neighbor and a timely tax payer.
    We want Dennis to know the Lord was involved
    in taming the Red River with such great resolve.
    With prayers from believers and the people pitching in
    The mighty Red River simply couldn’t win.
    North Dakota seems simple compared to the rest.
    But we’ve proven again that we’re truly the best!
    Thank you Dennis Walaker for all the sleepless nights
    and believing in the Lord with all of your frights.
    Thank your exemplary staff for all that they do.
    Mayor Dennis Walaker, – Fargo loves you!

  30. Barnesville MnMary and Family, Our sincere sympathy to all off you as you grieve the passing of husband, dad, grandpa, etc. The outpouring of love and concern for you should bring you great comfort, knowing the wonderful impact Dennis had on so many people. oh. how fragile life is and how it can change so drastically in a very short time. You will continue to be in our thoughts and prayers. With Love, Lefty and Bonnie Swenson

  31. Hawley Mn.As a city employee I could not have asked for a better boss. Mayor Walaker was a steadfast person and treated all with respect. He was progressive with his duties and yet kept an old school philosophy that has left this city in a good place. God bless.

  32. I have known and worked with Denny for many years and have always had the utmost respect for him. A great many of us feel sadness and a loss. My thoughts and prayers are with Denny’s family.

    Fargo Assessment Department

  33. Albany GAMary, Erin, Shannon, Renae
    Dennis was a unique, special man who will be immensely missed. You all are in my prayers.
    Anne and Bob

  34. Fargo ND
    We were saddened and shocked over the sudden death of Mayor Dennis Walaker. Dennis was one of those gentle giants. He truly cared about his community and its people.

    Dennis was a true leader in every sense of the word, and he will be missed. Truly, Dennis was Fargo and Fargo was Dennis.

    To Mrs. Walaker and the family, please accept our deepest sympathies over your family’s loss. We pray that the days and weeks ahead will somehow be comforted.

    God bless you,


    Mr. and Mrs. Rick Olson

  35. My thoughts and prayers to Mayor Walaker’s family. He gave so much to the City of Fargo, and we are a better place thanks to all his years of faithful service.

    Fargo Planning and Development Dept.

  36. Otsego MN
    My prayers and sympathies to the Walaker family and the entire City of Fargo in the loss of Dennis. All the years that I lived in Fargo, it was such a comfort when the spring came around to know he was in charge. I always felt like he was saying to all of us that nothing was going to happen on his watch. He was such an incredible man that he shared with the community, that I cannot even imagine the loss you feel as a family in his passing.

  37. Grand Forks ND
    Our deepest sympathies to your family-to your wife Mary and sister Renae. Your parents Ray and Glady were always so very proud of you as well as many of the people in Leonard.
    –An old Leonard neighbor.

  38. Casselton ND
    Erin and Family
    We are deeply saddened by the untimely death of your father and would like to extend our condolences to you and your family. Larry and I cannot even begin to imagine what you’re going through and how difficult all this must be for you. Every life has a purpose to fill, a purpose which most humans can seldom complete. I hope you can have peace knowing that Dennis was one of the very few who was able to have the joy of doing what God had needed to him to do. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family during this difficult time.

  39. Minneapolis MN
    Sending my condolences to Dennis’ s family. Especially to his daughter, Erin and son-in-law, Tom who I used to do mosquito control with. Thanks to Dennis for saving Fargo in the 1997 flood.

  40. Denny owned the word “hero”. Although we all know, there were many behind the scenes, the buck stopped with him. That
    was the best part about this amazing man. Humble, caring, driven and dedicated to the city and citizens of Fargo. A loss indeed.

    But I think he might say….it was a good ride, carry on.

    My sincere condolences to his family.

  41. My condolenses to the family of Mayor Walaker, I met him one time a few years ago at a Kiwanas pancake feed, and didn’t realize that he was such a tall guy, which made him apposing for me, by his hight he had on me, but he seemed like a real nice guy at the same time.

  42. Fargo ND
    My sincere condolences to the family of Mayor Walaker. Our paths crossed many times while I worked for Cass County. And, what you saw is what you got. He was a leader that left Fargo a better place. During flood fights, I would bring home updates to our dinner table. My husband never wanted to hear it…instead saying, I’ll just wait for Denny to let us know. Thank you for all the years of public service. You will be fondly remembered.

    Bonnie Johnson

  43. Grandin ND
    Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends. He was a great leader for Fargo. Fargo was a better place because of him.

  44. Fargo ND
    My sincere condolences to the family of Mayor Walaker. Our paths crossed many times while I worked for Cass County. And, what you saw is what you got. He was a leader that left Fargo a better place. During flood fights, I would bring home updates to our family dinner table. My husband never wanted to here it…..instead saying, I’ll just wait for Denny to let us know. Thank you for all the years of public service. You will be fondly remembered.

    Bonnie Johnson

  45. Fargo North Dakota
    Deepest sympathies to the Walaker family in the loss of an exceptional man.
    Carol Sexton
    City of Fargo Information Services Dept