Benny Wallace, Obituary

By Jack Miles

 

MAJOR “BENNY” CHARLES  WALLACE     4/4/1931 – 9/24/11

    (Born in Claxton, Georgia)

       
A graduate of Georgia Military Academy where he excelled on the Weight lifting & Gymnastics Teams under his inspiring mentor Coach Major Bill Curry, who Benny greatly admired, Benny Wallace entered Florida State University in 1951. Because of his athletic ability and superior physical condition he joined FSU’s internationally famous five times National Champions Florida State Gymnastics Team. During his undergraduate years the team won the title of the first University or College team in the State of Florida to win a National Championship. In a gym loaded with Olympians and National Champions and although he competed in several events, and because of his exceptional strength Benny excelled in the rope climbing event garnering very valuable and needed team points. Quick witted and seemingly always cheerful,  Benny was a fun filled team member and added a lot to the team spirit as they competed throughout the United States.


While a student Benny met a beautiful Co-ed, Carolyn Wentworth and fell in love and they married In May of 1953. Don Holder, 1952 USA Olympic Gymnast, stood as their Best Man. Benny laughed when he announced that their son Steve was born 9 months and 1 day later.  Many of the Gymnastics Team members were married with children and Carolyn & Benny joined right in with the group on their many week-end picnics at North Florida’s many Springs, Lakes, and Beaches. Benny & Carolyn enjoyed 60 years of love.


Coming from a Military Academy background he continued his interest in the military by entering FSU’s Air ROTC program. Benny graduated in 1955 and continued his life path into an exemplary U.S. Air Force career and became a top jet fighter pilot with the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing. He flew interceptors and reconnaissance jets also and even had a tour in Northern Ontario where he flew a ski plane on rescue missions assisting the Canadian Air Force and the Mounties.


When the Vietnam War came along he flew the F-4 Phantom on 102 combat missions into North Vietnam and Laos from 12/1965 to 8/1966. He said, “At that time you either got shot down and captured or killed, or you didn't and they gave you the Distinguished Flying Cross and $ 65 per month combat pay. Happily, I got the latter. Although the medals they gave me were appreciated, mine isn't to be confused with the DFC's given to the WW 2 guys. There has been considerable inflation, I assure you. And anyway, doing what we were doing in war could sooner or later put you in a position where sheer panic could result in bizarre behavior that was often confused with lofty virtue; I gave the DFC medal to my oldest grandson.  After that I spent several years as an instructor in the F-4 and a total of seven consecutive years without setting foot in the U.S.A. Those years were in Thailand, Korea and Japan.” His wife and children were with him in Japan for four years and they traveled to many countries in the Orient. Benny retired in 1975 as a Major to Tucson, Arizona at the ripe old age of 42 and never worked again.


In retirement and after obtaining an additional University degree in “The Spanish Language”, he and Carolyn travelled extensively for over thirty years mostly in Europe and South America, and have visited or lived in 53 countries, some several times. They've been in all of the major cathedrals around the world and even had a private tour of the Vatican Gardens once. They have been to less than half of the states and were saving those visits for when they got older.  Benny had a collection of model airplanes. A collection of all of the airplanes he ever flew. He received, and cherished, the last one just days before he died. That was the Canadian one with skis on it.

Benny silently slipped away at his Time of Death, On 09/24/11 Saturday 7:30 a.m., with his loving wife Carolyn and daughter, Debbi Wallace and Grandchildren Beth  and Patrick Sassarini at his bedside.


He is survived by Son: Steve Wallace from Ft. Collins, Arizona. Daughter, Debbie Wallace from Eagar, Arizona. Grandsons: Martin Wallace from Brisbane, Australia and Patrick Sassarini from Eagar, Arizona, Granddaughters: Beth Sassarini and Andee Wallace from Eagar, Arizona, and Great Granddaughter Amerie from Phoenix, Arizona.


Jack M. Miles <jackmmiles@bellsouth.net>