Veteran news anchor John Wallace has died; remembered for his community work

In a 2007 file photo, veteran Fresno TV news anchor posese at Save Mart Center after being named president of the Bulldog Annual Foundation Fund.
In a 2007 file photo, veteran Fresno TV news anchor posese at Save Mart Center after being named president of the Bulldog Annual Foundation Fund. Fresno Bee Staff Photo

Longtime anchor, city employee and community supporter John Wallace died Monday morning from complications from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). He was 71.

Before retiring from the local television market, Wallace was the anchor for ABC30 (KFSN, Channel 30.1) and CBS47 (KGPE, Channel 47.1). He took a couple of breaks from reporting news to work as the public information officer for Mayor Alan Autry in 2008 and to do community work.

Wallace, whose real name is John Wallace Franzman, played baseball at the University of Arizona in the early 1960s before joining the U.S. Marine Corps. He began his broadcast career in Fresno in 1969 when he joined the news staff at KYNO radio. In 1975, Wallace became a television news anchor at KFSN. In 1987, he joined KJEO (now KGPE) to anchor the station’s evening news.

Wallace would end up working in local news for 40 years.

Former ABC30 weatherman Doug Collins worked with Wallace for almost a decade.

“He was the most professional on-air person I ever knew,” Collins said of working with Wallace. “He was spot-on with his reporting and I was pleased to get to work with him and watch him operate because he had such a knack for telling the story.”

ABC30 anchor Liz Harrison was in her early 20s when she started working with Wallace at KFSN. She recalls how supportive he was to her and others.

“He would hand-write personal notes to everybody. He was so encouraging and I really appreciated that about him,” Harrison said.

She said Wallace had a huge interest in people and the community, which was why he was such a strong news reporter and champion for local organizations.

The support Wallace showed didn’t stop at work.

Paige Wise, Wallace’s daughter, describes her father as having a wonderful sarcastic sense of humor and was the “king of the puns.” He also sent hand-written notes to all of his family that Wise describes as being very poetic.

She adds that many people don’t realize that her father was also a humanitarian.

“He was kind and generous but also very humble. He didn’t want notoriety or fanfare,” Wise said. “We all agree that he was a proud father and grandfather.”

Paul Loeffler, who worked with Wallace for 10 years, described the former news anchor as “a creative genius with an infectious enthusiasm for life” who was a friend and inspiration to him. He agrees with Wise that Wallace was so proud of his family.

“And his endearing passion, wit, and grace left so many feeling as if he were part of their family, too,” Loeffler said.

Outside his TV career, Wallace was the public address announcer for the Cal League Fresno Giants at Euless Park – the predecessor to today’s Pacific Coast League Fresno Grizzlies. His connection to sports stretched to include serving on the board of the Fresno Athletic Hall of Fame, as president of the 1989 California Bowl, as president of the Fresno State Timeout Club and as president of the Bulldog Foundation Board of Trustees. His connection to sports stretches to son-in-law Trent Dilfer, the former Fresno State quarterback.

He earned attention for his work, receiving the Harold S. Zinkin Sr. Award by the Fresno Athletic Hall of Fame in 2014. He was also inducted into the Clovis Centennial Hall of Fame.

In 2001, Wallace asked to be let out of his contract at KGPE to spend more time in community work and politics. At the time, he served on the Clovis Planning Commission.

Wallace announced that same year he would seek the Republican nomination for the 29th Assembly District. He withdrew from the race four days later because, he said, he was not prepared for the negative politics connected to the run for the office. He was lured back to KGPE in 2005 to co-host the morning show with Kathryn Herr.

Carson Franzman, Wallace’s son, said his father’s greatest pleasures were “being involved with the Bulldog Foundation, WestCare Foundation, Break the Barriers, Valley Children’s Hospital.”

Funeral arrangements have not been finalized, but the initial plans are to have a private burial early next week to be followed by a memorial service that will be open to the public. Details will be announced at a later date.

Rick Bentley: 559-441-6355, @RickBentley1

John Wallace

Born: June 24, 1945

Died: March 27, 2017

Occupation: TV anchor, city employee and community supporter

Survivors: wife Cheri; children Cass Dilfer, Cameron Weishaar, Paige Wise, Carson Franzman, Taylor Franzman; eight grandchildren

Services: pending