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California woman's hot air balloon honoring late husband is stolen

After Santa Monica resident Lucinda Wallace lost her husband to cancer a few months ago, she decided to honor his life with a majestic hot air balloon ride.

But the plan was grounded when the balloon -- "A Rainbow through Heaven" -- along with her SUV was stolen overnight Friday at a hotel parking lot near the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, where thousands of people gather every year to take flight.

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"They have taken something away from our family," Wallace told KOAT Albuquerque. "They have taken the joy that we were going to have in honoring my husband."

The balloon had become a special part of Lucinda and Rick Wallace's relationship, with the couple having attended the festival for nearly 34 years, KOAT reported.

Rick Wallace loved flying the massive air balloons, but the one stolen overnight was particularly special because it was designed by their daughter. The blue balloon is wrapped in a rainbow and features the American flag.

Tom Garrity, a spokesman for the festival, said the ballooning community has taken the theft "very personally" because the Wallaces were regular participants.

"The ballooning community here really looks after its own," he said.

The Wallaces planned to fly another balloon in the festival on Tuesday in honor of Rick's memory.

In the meantime, Albuquerque police don't believe whoever stole "A Rainbow through Heaven" will get very far.

"It's hard to get rid of a large balloon," Officer Tanner Tixier said.

For breaking news in Los Angeles and throughout California, follow @VeronicaRochaLA. She can be reached at veronica.rocha@latimes.com.

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