For Virginia Wallace, optimism never ended

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 20, 2012

By Mark Wineka
SALISBURY — Virginia Wallace always put an eternal optimism behind her support of early Salisbury efforts in the arts and historic preservation.
A constant pleasantness and kindness also carried over to her personal life devoted to family, church, roses and friendships formed through book, garden and bridge clubs.
“She never had an enemy,” daughter Suzanne Wallace Casey said Thursday. “She had that calm spirit about her. She could find the good in anything and brought charm to every situation.”
Wallace died Tuesday at her home in a Salisbury retirement community. She was 95.
“She was beautiful inside as well as outside,” Casey said. “That’s just how she was. She was amazing.”
Her death comes two years after her husband, Leo, died at age 97. The couple were devoted to each other over their 69 years of marriage, during which Leo forged a strong business legacy in Salisbury through enterprises such as Wallace Realty, Belle Realty and the Holiday Inn.
The Wallaces lived in their showcase mansion on South Fulton Street until about four years ago, and it often served as the show-stopper for Historic Salisbury Foundation’s OctoberTour. Virginia Wallace agreed to put her house on tour six different times.
“She was a very long and true friend to historic preservation and historic revitalization in Salisbury,” said Ed Clement, a founder of Historic Salisbury Foundation. “She was most generous with one of Salisbury’s most impressive houses, when it was needed to make OctoberTour a success.”
As evidence of her vision and faith in the community, Virginia Wallace was a charter member of the foundation and on the first boards of Piedmont Players Theatre and the Rowan Art Guild, which evolved into today’s Waterworks Visual Arts Center.
“She was one of a group of outstanding women leaders of Salisbury who thrust the foundation forward in the critical early stages,” Clement added.
Wallace was a graduate of Boyden High School and Catawba College. She and Leo raised Suzanne and two boys, Lee and Victor.
Casey said her mother ran their household with a classy calmness in all situations. The mother and daughter never had a major conflict, not even during her teen years, Casey said.
“She was my best friend,” Casey added. “… We just had this unbelievable closeness throughout life.”
Over recent years, the Wallaces had relied on a team of personal caregivers, which included Paula McCora.
McCora said Virginia Wallace was humble, never said a bad word about anyone and always put others first.
At no time was that more evident than during the time Leo’s health was failing. She remained constantly by his bed, and when he was moved to the N.C. Lutheran Home during his last month, “she could not wait to get up there to see how he was doing,” McCora said.
“I really got close to her after he passed,” McCora added. She said her eight-hour shifts never seemed as though she was working, because of how nice Virginia Wallace was.
McCora often accompanied Wallace to her doctor appointments, the beauty shop, church or restaurants.
About twice a week, McCora also would drive Wallace to the cemetery where Leo was buried to make sure the plot was clean and there were flowers.
McCora said the couple kept their romance alive up to Leo’s death. She remembered how they enjoyed going to the Holiday Inn after church and would dance with each other while friend Billy Burke played the piano. On the dance floor, Leo might have a walker, and she would rely on a cane.
“It was just the sweetest thing,” McCora said. “They were the best couple in the world.”
Virginia Wallace’s imprint is all around town. There is a Virginia Wallace Gift Gallery at Waterworks. She and Leo established a First Family Scholarship at Catawba College in their name.
In 2010, Historic Salisbury Foundation presented Virginia Wallace with its highest honor — the Clement Cup.
The foundation also made her a trustee emerita, in recognition of her service and monetary support.
Over the years, Virginia Wallace held many positions of leadership with the foundation, at First Presbyterian Church and with the family businesses.
Casey said her parents also enjoyed traveling and had wonderful trips across the world.
“She was a very special person in this community,” Casey said.
A memorial service is being held at 11 a.m. today at First Presbyterian Church.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.