RI attorney remembered as caring friend, champion

Posted Online: Feb. 03, 2013, 11:57 pm
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By Jonathan Turner, jturner@qconline.com
If Frank Wallace was on your side, there was no better friend or champion, a few people who knew the late Rock Island attorney best said on Sunday.

Mr. Wallace, 85,a prominent attorney, died on Friday night, in Dayton, Ohio, after a long battle with cancer.

"Everybody that knew Frank knew that he was an extremely loyal friend who had the proverbial heart of gold," attorney Stuart Lefstein, of Rock Island, a friend of more than 50 years, said on Sunday. "If you were a friend of Frank, he would do anything for you. We were very close. I experienced it many times over the years."

"He was a very accomplished lawyer; he was an extremely devoted family man," said Mr. Lefstein, who occasionally sat on the opposing side of Mr. Wallace in court. "He and his wife, Eleanor, were always together. He was very proud of the accomplishments of his two children."

"He was admired by several judges who he practiced before," his friend added.

Mr. Wallace was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and his father was both a lawyer and rabbi.He attended the University of Wisconsin, where he played drums in the marching band, and aftera year transferred to the Merchant Marine Academy and found his love of the sea. After graduating, he was recruited by the Air Force to become a fighter pilot. His father asked that he attend law school first, and he went to one of the best -- the University of Michigan.

Mr. Wallace inspired his son, Charles, to become a successful trial lawyer in Chicago. His daughter, Julia, is market vice president of Dayton-based Cox Media Group Ohio and former editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

"I could see how much he was able to help people, how people relied on him," Charles Wallace said on Sunday. "We would get calls at all hours of the night, from people in trouble, that didn't know what to do. Dad was truly a counselor at law, an old-school lawyer. Whatever a family needed, he would be able to do it.

"Watching him over the years, people that relied on him, made me want to do the same thing," he said, noting his father represented Quad-Cities United Auto Workers locals and their members, and was their lawyer during the farm crisis. "He represented union guys -- everybody was out of work, marriages were collapsing, people were getting divorced, the whole place was falling apart.

"He'd go down to union halls, whatever the union halls needed, he would take care of," said Mr. Wallace, who is a personal injury lawyer.

"My dad was always for people that needed somebody to help them that couldn't help themselves," he said. "He was never afraid to take on a challenge. For one reason or another, he would step in. The more of an underdog you were, the more he wanted to help."

"He was just such a warm, caring man who was always trying to help the little guy, the underdog -- people who needed help," Julia Wallace said. "Heloved helping people. He was in hospice giving nurses life advice on what they needed to do."

He met his wife -- an Iowa native whose parents lived in Rock Island -- at Michigan, and they married in August 1953 in the Gold Room of the Blackhawk Hotel. After a few years in Chicago, they moved to Rock Island, and Mr. Wallace soon joined Eleanor's family's business, Midland Steel.

He worked briefly as a Rock Island County assistant state's attorney, and went into private practice in Rock Island in the late '60s, not retiring fully until about five years ago.

"When he went into private practice, he would do all sorts of things for people way beyond the call," Ms. Wallace said. "He had views on everything; he was very opinionated."

"He was not a shrinking violet. If he had an opinion, he'd say it," Mr. Wallace agreed, noting he often wrote letters to the editor and articles calling for reduction in county board membership and opposition to moving the courthouse. "If he had a cause, he'd champion it."

He battled cancer for more than 25 years -- first prostate cancer, then bladder cancer that spread, his son said.

He loved music and art (he once studied drums at the famed Juilliard School in New York) and his beloved poodle, Etienne, who he trained to be a therapy dog, and he took him to rehabilitation centers to work with stroke victims. Eleanor helped establish the first dog park in Rock Island.

"He was very good singer; he said he would like to come back as an opera singer," Julia said. "He liked all sorts of music; he'd talk about everything from Beethoven to Mozart to AC/DC and Def Leppard. He started painting after he retired -- he literally walked into a retiree art class, and picked up a brush."

He created hundreds of art works, many of which he donated to charity auctions or gave as gifts to people who inquired about buying them.

Throughout Mr. Wallace's battle with cancer, his top priority remained helping his wife with her own battle with Alzheimer's disease. Charles called him "her one-man caretaker." They moved to Dayton just three weeks ago to be close to his daughter.

Funeral services will be on Tuesday at 1 p.m. at Congregation Beth Israel at the Tri-City Jewish Center, Rock Island. Burial is at the Hebrew Cemetery, Rock Island.

In lieu of flowers, contributions are encouraged to be made to the Frank Wallace Memorial Fund at U.S. Bank. The money will be given to groups working to inspire the love of art and music in children and to the Quad City Animal Welfare Center.Online condolences may be left for the family at wheelanpressly.com.


Local events heading

  Today is Thursday, April 24, the 114th day of 2014. There are 251 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: We learn that it is a contemplation to start a paper mill in Rock Island during the summer by a gentleman from the East.
1889 -- 125 years ago: The gates of Oklahoma were swung open at noon today, and a throng of more than 30,000 settlers started over its soil.
1914 -- 100 years ago: The Iowa Coliseum Co. was incorporated with $40,000 capital and planned a building on 4th Street between Warren and Green streets in Davenport.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Plans are being discussed for resurfacing the streets in the entire downtown district of Rock Island.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Some 45 jobs will be created at J.I. Case Co.'s Rock Island plant in a expansion of operations announced yesterday afternoon at the firm's headquarters in Racine, Wis.
1989 -- 25 years ago: Gardeners and farmers cheered, but not all Quad-Citians found joy Saturday as more than an inch of rain fell on the area. Motorists faced dangerous, rain-slick roads as the water activated grease and grime that had built up during dry weather.

(More History)