MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Remembered as a real life cowboy, South St. Paul is mourning a man known for bringing creative community events to life. Walt Books died this month at the age of 88 from COVID-19.

Like he was cast in an old Western, Books donned a cowboy hat for decades as chief promoter of his small Dakota County town, whether it be through World Championship Booya or a dandelion growing competition.

“Silly things like that were to him a way of brining people together and getting people to talk, especially about South St. Paul,” his daughter Brenda Books told us.

It’s the place he bought a flower shop on a whim that he ran for 30 years. Walt Books’s daughter works at a different one today but remembers fondly her dad’s big ideas.

“He and my mom went to Montana on a vacation. He decided that South St. Paul needed a rodeo,” she said.

South St. Paul Mayor Jimmy Francis was there on Saturday as folks lined the street to wave to the horse-drawn carriage that carried their idea guy to his final resting place.

“Walt’s ideas to promote us weren’t about Walt, it was about South St. Paul,” Francis said. “How fitting in a pandemic, when we can’t have a funeral inside, they brought it outside. I think it was a really nice tribute to Walt.”

Brenda Books still struggles with the sudden loss.

“It’s hard to realize he’s not here,” she said.

Her father seemed to be fine in a nursing home until COVID-19 took his life in a few days at the hospital, leaving her still wishing for a different ending to her dad’s colorful story.

“Everyone who has passed away from it also deserves recognition for their fight and their families,” she said.

Brenda Books believes patients who test positive for COVID-19 in nursing homes need to be moved more quickly to hospitals. She said in her dad’s case, he was able to insist that he leave and get medical attention, but most patients can’t. In the end it was still too late to recover.

If you have a loved one you’ve lost to COVID-19 that you’d like us to feature, please send an e-mail to tips@wcco.com.

Liz Collin

Comments (5)