Beloved Community Member: Christy Walton

Friends stunned by sudden death of child advocate, Zumba diva

Friends and family of Christy Walton were shocked when the child advocate and Zumba instructor died suddenly Oct. 12 of a massive stroke.

Friends and family of Christy Walton were shocked when the child advocate and Zumba instructor died suddenly Oct. 12 of a massive stroke.


The saying often goes: “Youth is wasted on the young.”

Not in Christy Walton’s case.

She lived life to the fullest every day, until it was taken suddenly from her, say friends Lisa Evans, Katrisha Stuler and Barbara Thompson.

Walton died from a massive stroke on Oct. 12 leaving friends and family stunned. Walton was barely out of her 40s.

The three friends and coworkers of Walton gathered recently to talk about what this remarkable woman did to improve the health of Rim Country residents and the quality of life for its children.

“Anything she was interested in, she’d learn at 150 percent,” said Stuler, who worked with Walton through the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program for abused and neglected children going through the court system.

“She had a huge amount of capability — if she didn’t have the answers, she would know who to ask,” said Thompson who worked for Walton at the Childhelp Children’s Advocacy Center.

Thompson said Walton was the first forensic interviewer trained in the Payson area.

The police would call Walton to interview a child they found in a dangerous situation. Based on what she learned from the interview, the county prosecutor would decide whether to proceed with a case.

The three women said Walton had a way about her. She could instantly gain the trust of any person who met her.

“She could do that with anybody,” said Evans, the Payson Unified School District (PUSD) psychologist and co-Zumba dance instructor with Walton.

Thompson said Walton would ask a child where they got their cool shoes or pretty dress and the child would instantly warm up and trust her.

Walton started working with Payson children when she first moved here with her family in 1995. She started by substituting in the schools while her husband ran his own company, RG Communications. The two moved to Payson to escape the increasing urbanization of Phoenix and raise their two boys in a small town.

But her first love was always dance.

In a letter to attendees at her memorial service, her husband Gary wrote, “I have realized that her one true love was dance and that’s OK with me, because she had plenty left over for Travis, Jerrod, me and of course, all of you.”

Walton gave up her fitness dance company Slendersize when the family moved from Phoenix to Payson. For 15 years her aerobics class in Phoenix carried the family as her husband’s work ebbed and flowed.

For Walton, moving to Payson was not an easy decision, but she did it for her family. Her husband said she struggled to start her Slendersize business in Payson, but it never took off.

So, when her best friend in Phoenix introduced her to a new fitness dance in 2007, Zumba, Walton was hooked.

Zumba uses Latin rhythms and belly dance moves to offer an effortless workout for people of all ages.

Soon Walton was holding classes in the Senior Center, at the schools, and anywhere she could.

“If you watched her as an instructor she has a love of dance ... it was about the joy of health and movement for her,” said Stuler.

Evans met Walton through her work with the schools, but the two bonded over Zumba and their love of dance. It wasn’t long before Evans became a back up dance instructor for Walton.

“We did Zumbathons for local families with cancer,” said Evans. “I hope to continue to have those events and practice. If I could do a fraction of what Christy did ....”

The three women spoke for over an hour sharing stories about the friend they have lost.

“She will be missed,” said Stuler.


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