The Cambrian

Barbara Helen Walter, longtime Cambria rancher, dies at 95

Longtime Cambria ranch matron Barbara Helen Walter died Wednesday, Aug. 6, at her ranch on Santa Rosa Creek Road.

She was 95.

While Walter was known in the community for entertaining, traveling, cooking, hunting, sports and remaining active in various clubs, organizations and nonprofits, she also was known for a certain fearless nature that came in handy for a ranch wife and then widow who continued the cattle operation with daughter Dawn Dunlap.

As a young woman in the late 1930s, Walter took flying lessons.

During World War II, she worked as an inspector for the Pomona Pump Co. and as a graphic artist who painted insignias on armed forces’ ambulances and airplanes.

One of her most memorable — if frightening — experiences came in peaceful Cambria in early September 1954, seven years after she’d joined the Bank of America staff there, when the bank was robbed by a fumble-fingered gunman and his associate.

Walter (who was Barbara Helen Dunlap at the time), was vault teller and general ledger bookkeeper. She, branch manager C.P. Olivero and assistant cashier Paul Rapp were bound with thin cord and white adhesive tape, she recalled for a Cambria Historical Society report in 1997.

The gunman told them, “Lie still if you want to stay healthy.”

Walter said, “The robbers were tempted to open the cash cabinet in the vault, but were frightened that they might trigger the alarm little did they know it contained $40,000 in cash, ready for Pinedorado weekend, and the payroll for Bechtel Corp. employees” who were building the Morro Bay power plant.

The bandits sped away in the bookkeeper’s green 1952 Buick Century, which was later found near Borradori Garage in Cayucos.

The perpetrators were never caught, and the money was never recovered. The robbery, estimated to have taken about 25 minutes, had been the first in more than 100 years in San Luis Obispo County, and the first in the history of the Cambria bank.

Walter’s services will be private. Memorial donations may be sent to the Old Santa Rosa Chapel and Cemetery Committee, P.O. Box 316, Cambria CA 93428.

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