By Jon Walter
In 1975, at the age of 22, 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 45 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 percent in 1975 to 18 percent 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 was Walter and Associates and four other leading real estate firms in the community came together 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 its peers.
Lemmon said, “Mark was a man of integrity. He was always concerned about the welfare of other people, especially those at the office. 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 Walter and Thayne Houston became best friends and business partners as ERA Brokers Consolidated opened offices across Southern Utah and into Mesquite, Nevada.
Thayne Houston couldn’t say enough good things about Mark. “Mark Walter was a fantastic business partner. He always gave 110 percent in the partnership and did way more than he needed to. 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.”
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. Gail said of their dear friend Mark, “His fairness, honesty and integrity are his most distinct attributes and are becoming harder to find these days.” Mark also worked closely with the Smith family to assemble the ground for the Tuacahn Center for the Arts 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 proker for the next 19 years. He personally assisted his friends and clients in many hundreds of transactions over the years.
Stephen Wade said about his good friend, “Mark’s personality was always upbeat. He was fun and an exciting person to be with. 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 Boy Scouts of America Snow Canyon District, Silver Beaver recipient and served on numerous committees, councils and boards.
Longtime friend Vardell Curtis said, “Mark was one of the first Board of Realtors members I met nearly 25 years ago after accepting the opportunity to go to work for the Washington County Board of Realtors. 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.”
Land developer Lori Burgess added, “Mark Walter set the gold standard for real estate in St George. He was an example to us all.”
Starting in 2004, Mark’s sons Neil, Matt and Jon began working with him in the business. Together with Thayne Houston, they expanded offices further 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 passed away on Aug. 11 at the age of 67 from kidney cancer after being diagnosed only three weeks earlier.
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 really said, “I never met a person I didn’t like.”
Longtime 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.”
This article was authored by Jon Walter, Mark Walter’s son, along with contributions from other Walter family members, friends and business associates.