Murrysville, PA resident Joe Walko came to writing in a most curious way, led to start blogging following the death of his wife in 2012.  He had dabbled in writing before, in a local nature rag (The Nature Observer News) and writing about his outdoor adventures, but it was mostly for fun and the entertainment of friends and family.

But about month after his wife died, he set up a blog, sat in front of the computer, and let the words flow. “I don’t know where the words came from, I just channeled them, let them pour forth. And they touched people around the world; there was genuine sharing and real emotional connections. So I just rolled with it.”

Joe’s blog struck a nerve, mostly for its honesty, especially on a subject we don’t like to talk about – death. People from around the world reached out.

The loss of his wife, Debbie, at age 45 from breast cancer, left him reeling; suddenly he was a single parent to two young boys, ages 9 and 12, and was forced to re-evaluate his entire life.

“I’m only now, seven years after my wife died, recognizing the depths to which her loss devastated me”, says Joe. Blogging and writing helped, so he kept it up, and still does.

“Most times it is not me writing, it is something inside me that is fighting to get out, to be heard.  When it gets to the point that I can no longer ignore it, where it keeps me up at night, where it takes on a life of its own, then I have no choice, and I sit down to write.”

That writing has culminated in his latest book, Cairns, published in September 2019 by Word Associates of Tarentum.

Cairns details Joe’s journey to find the courage to follow his true path, a journey he argues we all make throughout our lives, in the choices we make. “It’s hard to follow your heart, to make the decisions we need to make to honor our true selves, especially when there is so much pressure to conform to what the world wants us to be.”

Sometimes, as in Joe’s case, life breaks us down and leaves us with no choice but to confront our honesty. But we still get to choose how we will react to adversity, and there is help for those who are willing to look.

Signs are there to guide us, like the stacked rock cairns set up as markers that hikers follow in the desert. Cairns can be  little signs, like the white butterflies and heart-shaped redbud leaves that always appear to remind Joe of his wife, to the opportunities that suddenly present themselves that we otherwise might not have noticed if we weren’t broken open or stuck in our ruts and patterns.

Cairns also come in the form of the helpers and real-life angels that appear just when you need them the most, too. Joe learned that angels can come in form of a policemen, a Native American shaman, a rehab counselor, or a young widow whose husband died of cancer just a few days before Joe’s wife died – and who is buried next to his wife in Plum Creek Cemetery.

“I’ve been so blessed to have had the gurus and angels I’ve needed to guide me through the tough times after my wife died. It’s miraculous in so many ways, which is why I had to write this book, to fully tell this amazing story, and to hopefully inspire others to follow their cairns, too.”

“Following your cairns is not easy, but I guarantee it will lead you on the most amazing adventure of a lifetime, to places you never envisioned, and might even help you blossom into the person you were always meant to be.”


Joe Walko is still a full-time father and now a finance professional again, a part time adventurer and wannabe writer, trying his best to balance family and duty with love and beauty. He lives in Murrysville, PA and is hoping to follow his cairns into a travel-filled early retirement soon.

Joe is available for author events and speaking engagements on a variety of topics, please contact him at  jwalko1019@gmail.com

IMG_3190IMG_4327Caring Place Quilt

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