Michael Dean Wallace

Michael Dean Wallace

Michael died last Sunday in Spokane, Washington, of respiratory failure.

He is survived by his loving and devoted spouse (2011) and life partner of 29 years, Alfred R. Haas and their wonderful poodle pal Paige at the home, his sister, Jennifer J. Wallace-Gilstrap, his brother-in-law, D. Wayne Gilstrap and his nephew, Jacob T. Gilstrap – all of Spokane. Michael was preceded in death by his mother, Jeanne C. Wallace in 1999, his faithful canine companion Ellie in 2003 and his father, Thomas C. Wallace in 2010.

Michael was born in San Diego, California but grew up in Spokane. As a boy, he loved playing in the pine woods nearby the family home, usually alone – climbing large basalt outcroppings, exploring and was always delighted by the profusion of colorful, spring, wild flowers he found in those native surroundings. A shy child, Mike was very close to his grandparents, especially his paternal great grandmother Rose – the family having dinner at her home, every Sunday, after church, when he was young. Likewise, he often spoke fondly of his Auntie Iva and Thanksgivings and Easters at her Spokane Valley farm long ago. Mike enjoyed traveling with his mother and father to see his maternal grandparents in Los Angeles in the late 50s – remembering early Disneyland well.

Michael attended Lincoln Heights, Franklin and Roosevelt Grade Schools, as well as Sacajawea Jr. High School. He was particularly fond of Franklin School, which was half a block from home. He graduated from Lewis and Clark High School in 1972, saying his favorite teachers were Mr. Jim Speer, who taught Biology and Mrs. Frances Vecchio, who taught English. Mike attended Eastern Washington State College, graduating with a degree in Art History in the fall of 1976. He greatly admired his professor, Dr. Barbara S. Miller. In preparation for a required Senior lecture, he traveled to Europe to study and photograph specific examples of “England’s Medieval Church Architecture and Sculpture.” With aspirations of teaching Art History at the Community College level, he began an advanced degree, completing an extensive curriculum guide, which he later donated to area Universities and Colleges.

Mike worked at the Lakeland Village School in Medical Lake in 1978-79 under then President Jimmy Carter’s CETA Program. His life’s work (1978-2008) was with The Community Colleges of Spokane’s Adult Basic Education Division, where he primarily taught English as a Second Language, but also Night High School Social Studies and was Coordinator of the Division’s ESL Program for 3.5 of those 30 years. He described his career as rare and unbelievably fulfilling – his students a source of constant joy and inspiration. Moreover, it was Mike’s privilege to work with many extremely dedicated and wonderful colleagues. He was honored to receive an “Exceptional Faculty Award” from the Colleges in 1997.

Mike became very interested in antiques as a boy having discovered a huge hoard of ancient family objects in the loft area of a large, old garage on his great grandmother’s property. He was particularly interested in very early lighting devices – specifically rushlight and splint holders. Mike was a member of “The Rushlight Club – International Association of Collectors & Students of Historic Lighting.” At the time of his death, he was working on a unique article about rushlights – interviews, compiled by the schoolchildren of Ireland, in the 1930s. Mike was also fascinated by early, external horn talking machines – buying his first Edison phonograph when he was 14 years old. Michael considered himself an artifact steward with many of his pieces from renowned collections and some documented in texts. He especially treasured objects with touching provenance.

Mike maintained an active interest in genealogy, loved to tell old family stories and enjoyed sharing memories of his childhood. Moreover, he found great pleasure in writing, and also dabbled in poetry, art, piano and the organ. Michael particularly loved traveling with Alfred in New England – especially Maine, which he found unsurpassed in its varied beauty. How Mike loved their colorful, summer zinnia garden, oft frequented by butterflies and hummingbirds – a source of great peace and comfort to him. Passersby often commented on Mike and Alfred’s flowers.

After buying his first home in 1981, Michael became increasingly interested in historic architectural preservation and restoration. From January 2015 to October 2016, he was involved with Spokane Public Schools Administration and ALSC Architects as he felt a strong commitment to his old grade school, 1909 Franklin – its modernization and new addition.

As a boy Mike attended Centenary Methodist Church, the family’s church since 1904. He greatly enjoyed the tenure of Rev. Wendell Cone (1961-65), who had a decided gift with children. From 1973 to 1978, Michael was Centenary’s Youth Counselor (MYF), which he found very rewarding, often remarking how fun that time was. He also sang in the church choir. Mike became a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Spokane in December 1983.

Michael spent a great amount of time in deep thought. He wrote: “Humanity has wondrous potential but we’ve only taken our first, very unsteady steps in evolution – an inner and outer universe of infinite discovery and possibility awaiting us. Even at this, our humble beginning, there is cause for great hope and joy. Life provides us countless opportunities to ‘make a difference’ in whatever way we can. Herein lies our most worthy form of immortality.”

Per Michael’s wishes, no service is planned. Heritage Funeral Home is in charge of cremation. Private urn interment, Greenwood Memorial Terrace, beside his mother. A remembrance for Michael is planned on August 10, 2019 – contact Heritage Funeral Home for additional details. Michael’s family suggests donations to:

Community Colleges of Spokane Foundation for the Charmaine Kolb ESL Scholarship Fund (in memory of Michael Wallace)
501 N. Riverpoint Blvd. Suite 203
Spokane, WA 99202
(Photo) January 1986 Copyright © Harold Pfeiffer

Venue and time
“Remembrance for Michael”:
August 10, 2019, 3pm-6pm.
Chateau Rive – at the Flour Mill
621 Mallon Ave, Spokane