Robert Wallace, a retired Jet Propulsion Laboratory employee known for his long and dedicated involvement with the La Cañada Kiwanis Club and La Cañada Flintridge Tournament of Roses Assn., died on New Year’s Day after a brief illness. He was 87.
His death from pneumonia was preceded by the passing of wife Beverly, a retired nurse, who died on Dec. 9.
The couple had been receiving hospice care in their La Cañada home. Beverly Wallace’s health had begun to decline from a number of issues while Bob, as he was known by friends, had heart problems and had recently received a diagnosis of leukemia.
Married in 1959, the Wallaces moved to La Cañada Flintridge in 1962 after Bob got a job at JPL. There, he designed the control systems for massive antennas in the Deep Space Network until his retirement in 1997.
Beverly worked as a registered nurse at Pasadena’s Huntington Hospital and St. Luke Medical Center and later Los Angeles’ Good Samaritan Hospital, retiring in 1992. She later became a docent at Descanso Gardens, while Bob got involved with the Kiwanis Club and helping the local Tournament of Roses Assn. engineer numerous Rose Parade Floats.
“He always liked to be involved in and have a connection to the community,” daughter Lisa Olsen said of her father’s volunteerism.
“He liked to be useful,” agreed daughter Teri Byrne.
Maureen Bond, president elect of the La Cañada Noon Kiwanis Club, called Bob Wallace a mentor and friend from her first day at Kiwanis in 2014.
“He approached me like he always knew me and said, ‘What are you going to do?’” Bond recalled. “He said, ‘I think you’d be really good in publicity,’ then he patted me on the shoulder and said, ‘It’s yours, kid.’”
Fellow Kiwanian Nick Berkuta met Bob Wallace in 2005 and recalled working with him on the 2010 Paradise Valley mudslide recovery effort, building a house in Glendale for Habitat for Humanity and stringing holiday lights on the city’s Glenola Park tree.
“He was a team player, very dependable and ready to help and lend a hand to community projects,” Berkuta said by email.
Family members confirmed the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl game were playing on the living room TV on New Year’s Day, when Bob passed just minutes before the end of the football game.
The couple is survived by son William Wallace and wife Pamela of Oakland, daughter Lisa Olsen and husband Eric from Oceanside, and daughter Teri Byrne and husband Fergus of Ridgefield, Conn., along with five grandchildren. A second son, Michael, died in 2008.