Lt. Col. Thomas Lee Wallace USAF (Ret)
Thomas Lee Wallace passed away on December 2nd, 2019. He was born on January 15, 1933 to Dorsey Sherman and Emma Irene Wallace in Akron, Ohio. At the age of four, the family moved to Mill Run, Pennsylvania. He, along with four brothers and one sister, grew up struggling during the great depression. The family often had to sleep under newspapers for warmth and were lucky to have a pair of shoes. While his father served in WWII, his beloved “Mum” was left to raise the clan alone. The “Mill Run Gang” and “Wallace Boys” were quite well known to the folks in the old mining region. They roamed the hills of Bennetts Valley, hunting, fishing, and doing whatever they could to help their mother put food on the table.
Tom graduated from Huston Township High School in 1950. He had a strong work ethic, and worked his way through Pennsylvania State University with plans to become a physician. However, upon entering the R.O.T.C. program, his plans changed dramatically. He graduated from college in 1956 with a BS in English literature, and later earned a coveted spot, qualifying for the basic fighter pilot air training program.
After graduating, he had one of his most memorable assignments, flying as an F-100 Super Sabre pilot with the 22nd Tactical Fighter Squadron at Bitburg AB, West Germany. This squadron included a pilot he highly admired, Colonel Buzz Aldrin, who would one day become the second man to walk on the moon. He often spoke of Aldrin’s abilities as a fighter pilot, fondly remembered his time with one of the first “moon men”, and valued the historical significance he and other early fighter pilots carried. After a brief marriage during this time and subsequent divorce, he was deployed to Ramey AFB, Puerto Rico, where he met his current wife, Martha, who was teaching second grade on the island.
After several deployments in the states, he and Martha were sent to Misawa AFB Japan, where he served with the 356th Tactical Fighter Squadron. He continued to fly the F-100 Super Sabre, and was presented the outstanding pilot of the year award as commander of the squadron’s “C” flight. While stationed in Japan, he flew back to The United States and upgraded to the F-4 Phantom, his favorite of the planes he flew.
In 1969, he was sent on his first mission to Vietnam, serving in Cam Ranh Bay and Da Nang for one year. Upon his return from Vietnam, he attended US Advanced Fighters Weapons Instruction School at Nellis AFB, Las Vegas, Nevada, where he received the “Top Gun” fighter pilot achievement..
Tom was then assigned to the 49th Fighter Tactical Wing at Holloman AFB, Alamogordo, New Mexico, serving in the 9th Tactical Attack Squadron, also known as “The Iron Knights”. He was an integral part of Operation Constant Guard, the largest rapid deployment tactical air command the United Air Force had ever utilized. The 49th wing deployed to Takhl Royal Air Force Base, Thailand. During Operation Constant Guard, they flew more than 21,000 hours over every battle zone from An Loc to the Hanoi Vicinity. During five months of combat, the 49th
lost no personnel, a testament to its leadership. He served as the 9th Tactical fighter squadron commander from 1974-1975.
For his valor in the United States Air Force, he earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, Army Good Conduct Medal, and the RVN Gallantry Cross with Palm, among others. During his A.F. career he flew the T-34, T-28,T-33, F-84, F-86, F-100 and the F-4.
After Holloman AFB, he was stationed in Seoul, South Korea, Langley AFB, Virginia and Malmstrom AFB. He retired in Great Falls in 1982, due to his love for the great outdoors. In 1992, he began a new business venture with Mitch Posey and Bobby Bergen, opening Wallace Marine. He worked there for 24 years before retiring in 2016.
He was a true renaissance man, with an uncanny wit, generous heart and pride for his Scots-Irish descent. From a young age, he and his siblings enjoyed singing, poetry, literature, quotes, and story-telling. He loved to golf, fish, and hunt, and could complete crossword puzzles in record time. He loved asking his grandchildren trivia questions at the dinner table or while taking them for nature walks. He knew the names of all the plants, trees and birds and would often quiz the family on them. Pops was our internet before the internet; you could ask him anything and he always had the answer. We were truly blessed to have such a giant of a man in our lives. His words of wisdom, prophetic advice, and caring nature will live on in each of us always.
He was preceded in death by his parents and a brother: James Wallace of Farmington, New Jersey.
He is survived by his wife, Martha (Behrent) Wallace, originally from Clyde Park, Montana; sons Bruce (Hannah) Milton of Farmington, New Mexico and Thomas “Scott” Wallace of Lakewood, Colorado; daughter Stephanie W. Ives of Great Falls, Montana; grandchildren J. Thomas, Gracie, & Kathryn Ives and Zachary & Olivia Wallace; brothers John “Jack” (Lorraine) Wallace of Penfield, Pa., Gerald Wallace of Treasure Lake, Pa., and Dale (Midge) Wallace of Port Charlotte, Florida; sister Patricia (Gerald) Agosti of Kersey, PA; and sister-in-law Mary Ellen Wallace of Flemington, New Jersey. He also leaves behind many nieces and nephews whom he adored immensely throughout his life.
Per his request, no funeral services are planned. His final resting place will be at Mountain View Cemetery in Livingston, Montana. The family plans to erect a Veteran Memorial at Morningside Cemetery in Clearfield County, Pennsylvania.
The family would like to thank the compassionate, patient doctors and nurses who helped him throughout his struggle this past year.
We will love and miss you always. Fly high, Pops. Now you are free to reach out your hand and forever touch the face of God.
by John Gillespie Magee
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tum and bling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, – and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of – wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air…
Up, up the long, delirious burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or ever eagle flew –
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
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