The Helena man who died after being shot in the leg by a hunting rifle Sunday will be remembered as a kindhearted doctor willing to go the extra mile for his patients and others in his life.
Authorities say 48-year-old Dr. Eugene "Buzz" Walton II was shot in Helena's old Kmart parking lot as he and another man returned from a hunting trip. They suspect the weapon accidentally discharged while being retrieved from the back of a truck.
Buzz was born in 1970 in San Diego and raised in Georgia, along with five brothers and sisters. He attended the University of Georgia and went to medical school at St. Matthews University School of Medicine, in Belize and Grand Cayman. He moved to Montana with his family in 2012.
"Buzz is just a great human being," Dr. Phillip Steele, Buzz's partner at Performance Injury Care and Sports Medicine, said. "He's compassionate, he has a heart of gold, and he loved being a doctor."
Buzz was a man who cared about healing the whole person, not just the physical ailment.
"He was very kind and genuine," Johnanna Sullivan, physical therapist at Optimal Sports Physical Therapy, said. "He cared about the person and tried to make them better."
Sullivan said she always felt comfortable asking Buzz for help and also for care.
"When I broke my wrist, he took me in as a patient and took time to explain, he was reassuring and joking with me," Sullivan said.
Lori Heit is a close friend of Buzz's family. She said Buzz was "like a dad to my kids too," and that their close-knit group of friends was reeling from the loss. She remembers Buzz as a man excited for others' success and a lover of bicycle races.
"He would finish races hours ahead of me, but would be there cheering me on at the finish line," Heit said. She remembers finishing the Philipsburg 46, and Buzz telling her "every mile is magical."
"There's not a mean bone in that man's body," Heit said. "I can't believe he's gone."
Dr. Matt Walton, Buzz Walton's brother who lives in Atlanta, said Buzz had always been an extraordinarily hard worker, and that started when he was a child.
"He was told that he would probably have a menial type job," Matt Walton said. "They told our parents he probably was not able to go to college. He was such a competitive person, such a hard worker, he was able to get past all of that.
"He comes from a medical background," Matt Walton said, as his mother, three sisters, and he are all in the medical field.
"He was the type of person who always had a smile on his face," Matt Walton said. "I'm going to miss him."
Sullivan said Buzz was instrumental in creating Save the Brain, a group designed to educate people about concussions so that people can recognize them in young athletes.
And for Sullivan, Buzz saved her life. "I don't mean that lightly," Sullivan said.
She described how Buzz helped her become healthier, lose weight and understand the whole body.
"So many doctors won't take the extra step to get to know the patient," Steele said, but Buzz always would. "Those types of physicians are sorely missed. Buzz would spend an hour with people, and that's rare.
"I don't know what I'm going to do without him," he said.
Buzz leaves behind his wife Leslie and two daughters, 13-year-old Emma and 10-year-old Taylor. Donations for his family are being accepted online at https://www.gofundme.com/support-for-the-walton-family?member=978502.
A memorial service for Buzz is scheduled for 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27 at the Gateway Center, 1710 National Ave.