THE Monaro and Merino industry lost one of its finest when Bob Walters of Middle View Merino stud, Dalgety, died suddenly from a heart attack, aged 51, on February 9.
At one of the biggest funerals ever seen on the Monaro, more than 800 people from across NSW, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and Victoria came to the Boloco Anglican Church at Dalgety, to pay their respects to one of the country's most passionate Merino breeders.
Known as a staunch Merino advocate, Mr Walters fought for farmers to recognise there was just as much, if not more money in breeding Merinos as there was in cross-bred operations, or cropping.
Born in Cooma on July 20, 1961 he was the third of four children for Judy and the late Sid Walters.
He grew up on the Dalgety farm, helping his father and two brothers run Merino sheep and cattle, with a real interest in driving the Merino stud with his father, of which he took on the decision making in the early 1990s.
He spent many a day with his father perfecting the art of analysing a sheep for its good and bad points, while also judging their wool.
The Middle View Merino stud was formed in 1977 by Sid and Judy Walters, growing from a successful ram breeding program as well as an interest in buying rams for others in the area.
The stud grew to a point where, during the mid 1980s under John Coy's classing direction, its inaugural ram sale sold 60 rams in 50 minutes to average $640.
In 2003, Craig Wilson of Wagga Wagga, was employed to work alongside John Coy and in 2005 the family restructured the farming business and Bob and his wife Mikala took over the reins.
Mr Walters took the Middle View brand of sheep to a new level from the time he took over the stud, producing big, thick, productive Merinos, both horned and polled, with a focus on putting dollars in his clients' pockets.
He had a saying; "You don't get paid for a bale full of horns, so why put emphasis on breeding them".
But at the same time he was conscious of wool quality, plenty of it and a good framed sheep to go with it.
Under his stewardship the Middle View stud topped many multi-vendor sales, and achieved one of the highest averages for an on-property ram sale in NSW, as well as helped clients to achieve great success in various wether trials and ewe competitions across NSW, Victoria and Tasmania.
He was known to many as the bloke with the infectious laugh, that could keep a crowd entertained for hours with his jokes and stories.
At a recent Armidale ram sale a fellow breeder said he always knew where "Bobby" was, as he always had a crowd around him and an infectious, roaring laugh that stood out in even the loudest of pubs.
He had a real passion for Merinos but claimed his real success in life was his children, Georgia, 15, and Brody, 14, with whom he had built a strong and close relationship.
Georgia loved breeding the Merino rams at Middle View and would spend countless hours following Bob's footsteps, while Brody on the other hand, had found a passion of his own in clay target shooting - a sport Mr Walters had not participated in for some time.
But in 2010 he was convinced to return to the lanes in Cooma, progressing rapidly from C grade to AA grade across large shoots in the Riverina, Monaro and NSW.
Mr Walters was an active member of the community across the Monaro and NSW, as a board member of the stud Merino Breeders Association since 1997, as a previous president of the Monaro Merino Association and president of the Great Southern
Supreme Merinos show and sale from 2010 to 2012, and was a member of Numbla Vale bush fire brigade and the Dalgety P and C.
He was a past member of the Dalgety Show Society and has been president and vice president and publicity officer of the Cooma Gun Club.
He was renowned in the district for his cooking skills and won at various local shows with his tomato relish and pickles andmany laughed at his inability to drive past the Dalgety pub without dropping in and having a beer with his mates.
The sheer number of friends that turned out to his farewell was testimony to the high esteem in which he was held, with Mikala saying "Half the world knew and loved Bob, the other half just had not met him yet".
Bob Walters is survived by his wife Mikala, children Georgia and Brody, mother Judy, brothers Ross and Neil, and sister Maureen.
- BRETT TINDAL