More than 500 family members, friends and co-workers gathered Monday morning for a memorial service for longtime local news anchor John Wallace at Fresno’s Peoples Church.
Wallace died March 27 from complications from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). He was 71.
The eulogy was given by Paul Loeffler, a longtime TV and radio newsman and current radio voice for Fresno State sports. The memorial included a photo collection documenting Wallace’s life.
Trent Dilfer, Wallace’s son-in-law, along with being an ESPN football analyst and former Bulldog quarterback, shared some special memories. Former Fresno State football coach Pat Hill praised Wallace for the support he gave the Bulldogs on and off the air.
Chris Pacheco, a local media owner and a former Fresno State football player, said it was Wallace who urged him to stay in Fresno after his playing days ended.
“He was a great ambassador for Fresno,” Pacheco said.
Brad Bell, pastor at The Well Community Church, said that while Wallace was well-known for his television work, he also was connected to “every organization known to man” in Fresno.
He was a great ambassador for Fresno.
Wallace worked in local news for 40 years. 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.
Loeffler urged everyone to do what Wallace did and serve as an “encourager.”
“John never met a person he didn’t care for,” Loeffler said.
A tearful Dilfer called it an impossible task to summarize Wallace as a husband, father and grandfather. Dilfer said he was able to deal with the pain of losing his father-in-law by focusing on the impact Wallace had on everyone.
“John had a great capacity for love,” Dilfer said.
Dilfer stressed that while many might think the last 10 years were hardest on Wallace, especially the last six battling COPD, it was actually the opposite. He said the illness removed Wallace from the public life that demanded so much of his attention (he emceed more than 500 local events) and allowed him to spend more time with his family.
John never met a person he didn’t care for.
Loeffler said those who worked with Wallace called him a perfectionist and king of the zingers. They told him Wallace set a high bar for journalistic excellence that colleagues are still trying to reach.
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. Wallace would send text messages to Loeffler during broadcasts to offer him some Fresno State sport history or just update him on events in his life.
His sports connections included 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.
Pat Ogle and Dick Steinberg offered their own special remembrances of Wallace. Ogle, who has been executive director of The Bulldog Foundation since 1982, called Wallace a “titan of broadcasting.” Steinberg, who leads the WestCare Foundation that Wallace supported for years, revealed that the Fresno facility of the organization would be dedicated to Wallace.
Wallace, whose full name is John Wallace Franzman, is survived by wife Cheri; children Cass Dilfer, Cameron Weishaar, Paige Wise, Carson Franzman, and Taylor Franzman; eight grandchildren.
Because Wallace supported such a long list of charities and organizations, the family has requested that in lieu of flowers donations should be made to a favorite charity.