Long-time Rock Island resident Franklin Sherwood Wallace, 85, a prominent attorney and larger-than-life character, died peacefully Friday night, Feb. 1, 2013, in Dayton, Ohio, after a long battle with cancer.
Funeral services will be 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.Wheelan-Pressly Funeral Home, Rock Island is assisting the family.In lieu of flowers, contributions can 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 a local animal shelter.
Frank grew up during the Great Depression in Brooklyn, N.Y. His father was both a lawyer and a rabbi. Early on, Frank showed a prodigal talent in music, and studied drums at the world-famous Julliard School. He attended the University of Wisconsin, where he played in its marching band and performed in the 1949 presidential inauguration parade. After a year, he transferred to the Merchant Marine Academy and found his love of the sea. He sailed the world, making a lifetime of memories. Whether it was exemplifying the life of a hardscrabble sailor by hustling pool against a roomful of locals seething in a language he didn't speak; bearing witness to history by joining the Argentine masses during a Juan Peron speech or stepping foot on the tundra of the Arctic Circle, Frank was setting his precedence of living life to the fullest. After graduating, he was recruited by the Air Force to become a fighter pilot. His father asked one thing of him; that he attend law school before becoming a pilot. He was accepted by one of the best law schools in the country, the University of Michigan. During a night of respite from his studies, Frank attended a Hillel dance. Standing on the band stage, looking out over the attendees, he spotted her.Eleanor Pope was an undergraduate, originally from Oskaloosa, Iowa, with her family roots then in the Quad-Cities. After a whirlwind courtship, Frank and Eleanor married and celebrated in the Gold Room of the Blackhawk Hotel in 1953.
After a few honeymoon years in Chicago, the boy from Brooklyn moved to Rock Island so they could be close to Eleanor's family.He worked briefly as a lawyer but soon joined Eleanor's family's business, Midland Steel. One of his fondest ventures during that time was when he turned vacant land into one of the area's first automatic car washes. After a decade, the law beckoned him back, and he returned to work as an assistant Rock Island county state's attorney.While there, he never lost a case and quickly gained a reputation as a dramatic and flamboyant trial lawyer.
Eventually Frank moved to private practice and gained more and more notoriety for his ability to win tough cases and his willingness to champion the cause of underdogs. He sought to get the toll removed from the Centennial Bridge. He launched a shareholder suit against International Harvester because of its poor management. And he was the first in the country to get a court to award the owner of a dog, who had been killed by a neighbor, damages in excess of the cost of the animal. In one instance, he represented a pastor of a church who came under fire for marching with a local labor union. When he solved the pastor's troubles and was asked what he was owed, Frank replied that his thanks was enough. The letter of thanks that subsequently arrived from the church was as treasured an accolade as any of the many awards and headlines that adorned his office walls.
Frank always loved sports.He was a championship athlete in handball, tennis, track and field, bicycling, and a not-so-champion golfer. His favorite athletic activity, though, was cheering on his wife as she won hundreds of running trophies and medals, including Senior Olympic medals. He also nurtured local boxers and was a member of the Illinois Boxing Commission.As he settled into retirement, he took up painting and won several awards at artistic competitions in Illinois and California. He created hundreds of works, many of which he donated to charity auctions or gave as gifts to people who inquired about buying them. Frank also trained his beloved poodle Etienne to be a therapy dog, and he took him to rehabilitation centers to work with stroke victims.
Even as his health deteriorated, he remained engaged and active in the community. He argued vehemently for a change in the Rock Island County Commissioner system, authoring numerous articles espousing his belief that the county has too many commissioners. And he was always accessible to the men and women of the area's organized labor unions, spending hours and hours in the union halls, offering his services and his advice.
Throughout it all, his love for his wife and children never took a backseat to anything. He raised his two children with love and support at every turn. Teaching them the value of hard work, the reward of achievement and instilling in them the realization that "the right thing to do, is always the right thing to do." Under his guidance, his son Charles followed in his footsteps to become a successful trial lawyer in Chicago, and his daughter Julia is an award-winning journalist who runs a media group consisting of newspapers, radio and television stations in Dayton, Ohio. Frank also was beloved by his two granddaughters, who opted to spend much of their summer vacations not at the mall with friends, but at their grandparents' house where he passed down those enduring lessons to the next generation.
But the story of Frank Wallace's life is best summed up in only one word: Eleanor. From the day he spotted her from that stage so many years ago, the thing that made him happiest in his life was making her happy. As they approached their 60thanniversary this summer, Frank still rued each of the circumstances which caused all of four nights they had spent apart in those years.And throughout his battle with cancer his number one priority remained assisting his wife with her own battle with Alzheimer's disease.
Franklin Sherwood Wallace will forever be loved and remembered by his wife, Eleanor; his son, Charles; and daughter-in-law, Ashley; his daughter, Julia; and son-in-law, Don; and their two children, Emmaline and Eden.
Online condolences may be left for the family at www.wheelanpressly.com