Community reflects on life of Mark Walter, a ‘pillar in Southern Utah’

Mark Walter, date and location not specified | Photo courtesy of Capone Marketing, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — In 1975, and at 22 years old, Mark Walter married his Dixie High School sweetheart, Valene Leany, and began a real estate career in Southern Utah that would become legendary. Mark spent the next 46 years shaping the Southern Utah landscape and improving peoples’ lives in the community.

Real estate didn’t come easy. Mortgage interest rates rose from 9% in 1975 to 18% in 1981. While selling real estate, Mark and Val ran a small motel, worked side jobs, went to school and somehow made it all work.

Like other companies in the early 1980s, Mark’s real estate brokerage, Walter and Associates, was struggling. The recession of 1981-1982 was considered by some the worst recession since the great depression. The solution came when Walter and Associates and four other leading real estate firms in the community joined in an unprecedented merger. Mark Walter, Clark Houston, Lowell Frei, Ron Lemmon and Sam Sampson created a real estate partnership under the new name ERA Brokers Consolidated in August 1982 that has outlasted all of their peers.

“Mark was a man of integrity. He was always concerned about the welfare of other people, especially those at the office,” Ron Lemmon said. “Everyone remembers him as a fun-loving guy but his interest in each individual was what defined him.”

Ownership evolved some over the years and Mark Walter and Thayne Houston became best friends and business partners as ERA Brokers Consolidated opened offices across Southern Utah and into Mesquite, Nevada.

“Mark Walter was a fantastic business partner. He always gave 110% in the partnership and did way more than he needed to,” Thayne Houston said. “He liked to be involved and contribute in the community; he was amazing with people. Mark made everyone feel welcome and included in everything he did.”

ERA Brokers’ grand opening at the boulevard office park, St. George, Utah, 1995 | Photo courtesy of Jon Walter, St. George News

In the 1990s, Mark was actively involved in brokering both residential and commercial real estate transactions. His signature commercial project was the development of the Boulevard Office Park on 200 East and St. George Boulevard. Mark’s vision and commitment to the project resulted in a timeless Class A office park with a glass and red brick structure. Mark and Valene partnered with their friends Hyrum and Gail Smith, Joseph and Katie Smith, and Larry and Stacie Shurtliff on the development.

“His fairness, honesty and integrity are his most distinct attributes and are becoming harder to find these days,” Gail Smith said.

Mark also worked closely with the Smith family to assemble the ground for Tuacahn and Stone Cliff.

Starting in 1998, Mark developed over 3,000 acres of mountain property on Highway 89 near Bryce Canyon with his parents and siblings. These developments include Paunsaugunt Cliffs, Casto Canyon and River Ranch.

In 2001, Mark saw the need for an exclusive commercial brokerage in Southern Utah. Mark was a founder in NAI Utah Commercial Real Estate Southern Region, now NAI Excel. Mark acted as its principal broker for the next 19 years. He personally assisted his friends and clients in many hundreds of transactions over the years.

“Mark’s personality was always upbeat. He was fun, and an exciting person to be with,” Stephen Wade said. “He was innovative in real estate and kind to people. He always knew what was going on in the community.”

Over the years, Mark was president of the Chamber of Commerce, business person of the year, president of the Board of Realtors, realtor of the year, district chairman for the BSA Snow Canyon District, Silver Beaver recipient and served on numerous committees, councils and boards.

Mark Walter with his sons in 2016 | Photo courtesy of Jon Walter, St. George News

“Mark was one of the first REALTOR members I met nearly 25 years ago after accepting the opportunity to go to work for the Washington County Board of REALTORS,” Longtime friend Vardell Curtis said. “He put his arm around my shoulder and said, ‘If you ever need anything, call me.’ He instantly became my mentor and my example of what a professional should be. And true to his word, he was always there when I needed advice or encouragement. But most importantly, he was my friend.”

“I think people need to know that the Washington County Board of REALTORS stands on the shoulders of our early leaders, and Mark Walter was one of those giants,” Curtis added.

Starting in 2004, Mark’s sons Neil, Matt and Jon began working with him in the business. Together with Thayne Houston, they expanded offices to Salt Lake and Las Vegas. Mark left a legacy of friendship, integrity and positivity.

The company Mark helped found now includes 12 office locations from Salt Lake to Las Vegas with over 500 real estate agents and staff. It completes over $1 billion in real estate transactions annually and manages over $350 million in real estate assets for its clients.

“Mark Walter set the gold standard for real estate in St George,” developer Lori Burgess said. “He was an example to us all.”

Mark Walter died Aug. 11, 2020, at age 67 from kidney cancer after being diagnosed only three weeks prior. Mark was known for his energy and enthusiasm. His voice and presence filled the room, and his knowledge of real estate and local markets was unparalleled. Mark was continuously involved in his companies and the community until the time of his diagnosis. Above all, Mark was a friend to everyone.

He said, “I never met a person I didn’t like.”

Long time neighbor and friend Steve Caplin said:

Mark Walter is a pillar in the Southern Utah community and his influence continues through the people he has impacted over several decades. Mark was trusted and loved by everyone because of his integrity and charity. There is really no way to measure the great good he has done for our community.

Submitted by JON WALTER, NAI Excel.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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