Saturday, January 20, 2007

In Memoriam: Michael Wallace: 1958-2006

On Thursday, our world lost a man of curiosity and verve. And we are less for it.

Michael Wallace, 48, a successful insurance and real estate executive who lived with his family in a simple yellow farmhouse on back road in Chartiers Township, died Thursday at Montefiore Hospital.

Michael and I had been friends for almost six years. We met in the summer of 2001 when we both were volunteering with Study Washington County 2001, an ad-hoc citizens group promoting a ballot question to establish a study commission that would evaluate the structure of Washington County government. Michael would go on to be elected to the study commission and was the person who moved to close it down when it became obvious a majority of its members had no interest in changing the county government.

Michael took a great interest in my State House races, actively promoting me to the State House GOP leadership and generously contributing again and again to my campaign committee.

Michael's obituary in today's O-R mentions his educational background. At the time of his death, he was working on his doctorate in information science and communications from Robert Morris University. The Ph.D. work was driving him a little crazy but I think he genuinely enjoyed it. Michael probably would have made a fun professor if he had someday chosen to go that route.

But, the obituary fails to mention two other things about which he was always telling me -- the large farm he was creating in Greene County and his annual two-week trips to Israel during which he would volunteer with the Israeli Army. He told me he was the only Christian among the volunteers, who were mostly Jewish college-aged men from New York and other parts of the United States. I don't think his going to Israel had anything to do with politics -- I think he just loved the adventure of living and training with the soldiers.

In my mind's eye, Michael will always be this young 40-something with a wonderful spirit and a great sense of hope. I am going to miss him. I'm going to miss knowing him as an old man. I bet he would have been one of those fun old grandpas.

In the Catholic tradition, there is a blessing which the entire congregation may speak at the end of a funeral. I am going to use it here:


May the angels lead you into paradise,
may the martyrs come to welcome you,
and take you to the holy city,
the new and eternal Jerusalem.

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