- About Us
The Rev. Dr. Ralph Justin Wallace
The Rev. Dr. Ralph Justin Wallace, 82, died Saturday, July 7, 2018, while preparing to join his family for a reunion trip. The North Carolina native was born to Bryce F. and Myrtle Austin Wallace on October 12, 1935 in Greensboro, NC and when he was 2, his family moved to Concord, NC to again be close to both families. He was baptized and confirmed at St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church in Concord and the encouragement and support he received in his formative years enabled him to accomplish much. Service to our Lord through dedication to bringing His word and sacraments to all people is the Great Commission of Jesus Christ. Ralph Justin Wallace heard this calling early and dedicated his life to answering it. The first in his family to graduate from high school (Concord High-1954), college (Lenoir Rhyne College-1958) and an institution of higher learning (Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary-1961), he always held several concurrent jobs in order to shoulder the financial obligations that the educational path of his calling dictated. Knowledge, however, was not enough. In his quest for excellence at what his Lord asked, the quiet Concord linthead felt he needed to improve himself as a person. As God’s people needed a servant engaged in their lives, Pastor Wallace deliberately challenged himself to hone this skill by serving as class/student body president at each educational institution while employed, involved in extra-curricular activities, and maintaining his GPA. This ability to be intensely and successfully involved in a myriad of activities would serve him well in the parish, making him equal to addressing the congregation’s needs and world’s social justice simultaneously. Conscious that his articulation and eloquence needed polish to project God’s word and produce powerful preaching, he practiced and practiced, earning awards at all stages of his education for his debating and oratorical skills and setting a standard of excellence that became one of the hallmarks of his professional career. This deliberate, careful behavior, that served pulpit and pew was, however, always predicated by God’s love and grace and therefore carried out with genuine care-filled conviction. A loving son grew to become a loving friend, spouse, counselor, father, pastor and advocate. A week after college graduation, he married his college sweetheart and the love of his life, Sarah Frances Huddle (II), who was, in every way and despite the times, his partner and equal. For 56 years, through good times and bad, they were a remarkable team that challenged and enabled each other to live generously and share God’s love with all of His children, working mainly through their fields of the church and education while serving as loving role models for their own progeny. As the years passed and they became “Dandy and Mum,” this same joyful, yet thought-filled love, pride and protectiveness was also lavished (without spoiling) on their four grandchildren and most recently, his great-grandson, as well. Ralph’s final ministry to Sarah through her battles with cancer and debilitating Parkinson’s Plus was inspirational to everyone they encountered.
Under the auspices of the ULCA, LCA and ELCA, Pastor Wallace (or “PW,” as some of his flocks called him), served his church/denomination and communities in capacities and levels too numerous to specifically list in areas ranging from the Environment to Evangelism to Education and from Stewardship to Restructuring. His attention to all ages and stages of God’s people was manifest in his varied work with those who often question the kingdom most- youth. From catechetics to camp director to coffeehouse to (youth) convention pastor to campus pastor and board member, “Reverend Ralph” counseled, encouraged, corrected, cajoled and consoled the future of the church in congregation, greater church and community. While purposefully and programmatically affecting growth and positive change in regular parish and later, intentional interim ministries in his service to congregations representing all stages of the congregational cycle from mission development to corporate congregation, he concomitantly advanced biblical understanding of the larger communion of saints. Pastor Wallace was called to serve 9 different Lutheran congregations in the NC, SC and Southeastern Lutheran Synods for over 40 years: Ascension, Wilson, NC; St Paul’s, Hamlet, NC; Emmanuel, Lincolnton, NC; Macedonia, Burlington, NC; St Paul’s, Columbia, SC; Faith, Knoxville, TN and in retirement, interim pastorates at Good Shepherd, Brevard, NC; St Matthew’s, King’s Mountain, NC and Grace, Hendersonville, NC. The publication of several volumes of his sermons and his oral delivery of them on the Lutheran segment of The Protestant Hour expanded his audience from local to international, enriching pastor and parishioner alike through God’s message. In addition to this accomplishment, Rev. Wallace was proud to have been honored for his service by the receipt of an honorary doctorate from Newberry College in 1989. That his work continued to have a life of its own through others was (and is) a legacy that our family has continued to be blessed by. Kudos from congregational members testifying to my father’s wealth of love, support and inspiration in addition to masterfully thought-provoking sermons have always been cherished as family memories. Imagine the shock and delight that our family experienced in 2001 while touring the National Cathedral when we all suddenly heard his work both quoted and cited in a sermon then being delivered and thus broadcast throughout the building! My father’s (parents’) constant, intentional and maximal use and cultivation of his (their) gifts to enable and empower others was what his (their) heavenly Father and the church ordained him (them) to do. To say that I am their daughter is a sobriquet I embrace with gratitude, respect, awe and some trepidation for the footsteps still left behind to continue to follow.
In his free time, Ralph Wallace loved to read, read, read and spend time with his family. He cherished solitude with its time to ponder, plan and advise and liked things to be done the “correct” way. He and my mother relished retirement, however short, in their beloved mountains and traveling all over the world or entertaining at home, always with family, friends and each other. He especially appreciated beauty, created by God or by mankind, usually in the form of sports (or German-engineered) cars, but also in woodworking and fishing.
Rev. Wallace is survived by a daughter, Dr. Leslie Skinner (Ed); a son, Chris Wallace; grandchildren, The Rev. Jessica Skinner Darty (The Rev. Jason), Justin Skinner, Bryce Wallace and Abigail Wallace; and a great-grandson, Isaac Wallace Darty. Surviving siblings include The Rev. Gerald Wallace (Nancy); brother-in-law, The Rev. David Huddle (Pat); and sister-in-law, Kristen Huddle as well as nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his parents, brothers-in-law, Stephen and Mark Huddle and a sister-in-law, Jan Huddle.
A memorial service to celebrate his life will be held at Incarnation Lutheran Church, 3005 Devine St. Columbia, SC 29205 at 4 PM on Wednesday, July 18, 2018. Visitation in the church reception hall will follow the service. Internment at Oaklawn Cemetery in Concord, NC will follow at a later date.
Memorials in Rev. Wallace’s name may be made to Incarnation Lutheran Church, Lutheridge/Lutherock Ministries, where the Wallaces were counselors before and during their marriage, or any of the parishes that Pastor Wallace served.
The family wishes to express its deep appreciation to everyone who provided love, support and prayer in so many ways during this time. What a blessing you have been to us! May you feel surrounded by and enfolded in God’s love and peace and reminded of the joy of His resurrection, just as we do!