Two people fell in love and share a legacy of faith
There ain’t nothin’ not affected When two hearts get connected…
He served as a deacon, led singing and oversaw the benevolence ministry for the Faith Village Church of Christ in Wichita Falls, Texas.
She taught Bible classes, oversaw funeral meals and baked a mean chocolate pie. Lots and lots of chocolate pies.
Together, they knocked doors and were faithful partners in the church visitation ministry.
Gordon and Irene Wallace will celebrate their 75th wedding anniversary on the day after Christmas. Because of the pandemic, they don’t expect a party this year, but Irene says that’s OK. Their anniversary has always been a quiet day after having the whole family together on Christmas.
“It all goes together,” she said.
The Wallaces were charter members of the Faith Village congregation when it was founded in 1950.
“If you ever went there, you know them,” said Lynn Keller, church secretary, who has known the couple for more than 40 years. “If there’s something going on at church, Irene is there and Gordon right beside her. They just really worked well together.”
The Wallaces’ story began in a high school study hall in Sweetwater, Okla.
A friend of Irene’s was sitting next to a cute boy and asked him how old he was. When she learned the boy was younger than she, she insisted on trading seats so he could sit next to her younger friend, Irene. The friend later became Irene’s sister-in-law when she married one of Irene’s brothers, and the cute boy became Irene’s husband.
Irene and her eight siblings were raised on a farm near Erick, Okla., and later moved into town. “I was third from the bottom,” Irene said.
Irene and Gordon were both baptized at age 15 in a stock tank near Sweetwater.
After graduating high school, he joined the Navy and left for the war in the Pacific, where he served aboard a ship laying and retrieving mines out of Pearl Harbor. She moved to Weatherford, Okla., to attend college. But before he left, they became engaged.
“We’ve had it pretty easy. The Lord’s been good to us.”
When World War II ended, he came home and was granted a 30-day leave. He headed to Oklahoma, where the two married Dec. 26, 1945, then returned to San Diego for about five months before he was eligible for discharge.
Then it was back to Oklahoma, where Gordon began a 39-year career with Halliburton Oil Well Cementing Co., and Irene took a job with Douglas Aircraft Co. When Gordon was transferred to Casper, Wyo., they headed north with their first child, Larry. Daughter Karen was born in Casper.
• • •
Irene: “We’ve had it pretty easy. The Lord’s been good to us. Maybe transferring with Halliburton to 40-below-zero in Casper. That was the challenge.”
Gordon: “She cried a lot up there.”
Irene: “You couldn’t take your babies out — they’d freeze. You couldn’t go out — you’d freeze. Ice, snow, oh my, oh my.”
• • •
Fortunately for Irene, Halliburton transferred the family back to warmer weather in Wichita Falls, Texas, where they have lived ever since.
Gordon became division materials superintendent for Halliburton. In his last dozen or so years with the company, he traveled frequently to oversee inventory controls at warehouses within a 250-mile radius of Wichita Falls. The city of 105,000 is about 125 miles northwest of Dallas.
Irene eventually retired after 24 years as a stenographer and secretary for the finance division of Wichita Falls’ city and school tax office.
For several years, they served and worshiped with the 23rd and Grace Church of Christ, a Wichita Falls congregation where Gordon was a deacon. Then they bought a house closer to the new Faith Village church.
Daughter Karen Spiller, nicknamed KaKa by her mom, said, “Church was just part of our week. We went to Bible class, went out to eat with different people – always went to somebody’s house on Sunday night. On Saturday night, they had many 42 (a domino game) parties. The church was not only for worship — they were their friends.”
Together, they conducted many home Bible studies and converted many to the Gospel, Spiller said. The couple was still knocking doors with the visitation ministry until the pandemic hit.
“They never sat down. They’re active,” their daughter explained. “When it came time to do a meal, mother would do a roast and two or three chocolate pies.”
Oh, those pies.
• • •
Gordon: “Feisty. And I may be in trouble, but she’s a little on the hyper side.”
Irene: “No, I am not.”
Gordon: “But then she’s got a good, giving side, too. She’s always doing for the family and everybody else.”
Gordon: “I’m teasing.”
Irene: “I say I hold my own.”
• • •
Spiller prefers to think of her mother as elegant rather than feisty, describing her as a beautiful woman.
“She’s 96 years old and reminds me of the Energizer bunny — nothing seems to stop her or slow her down.”
“She is, for her age, one of the most beautiful women you’ll see,” Spiller said, and described her taste and style as pristine. But the daughter agrees about the giving side. “She spoils the people that she loves. She will do anything for almost anyone until they become hurtful. She’s just a good Christian example of what I believe Christ wants us to be.”
Son Larry sides with his dad.
“She’s got a heart as big as gold, but she’s feisty as she can be. She’s a little bitty thing. She’s 96 years old and reminds me of the Energizer bunny — nothing seems to stop her or slow her down. She’s got a big heart. She does things for people. She makes pies for people at church — she’s famous for her pies.” Really.
• • •
Irene: “Oh, I’d never get through with that. He’s gentle, sweet, wonderful, a good husband, the best.”
Gordon: “She’ll take that all back in an hour.”
Irene: “I will not. He’s just wonderful.”
• • •
Everyone agrees Gordon is the quiet one.
Keller, their longtime friend and church secretary, described Gordon as very quiet. “But if he has something to say, he says it. He’s never disrespectful — a gentleman all the way.”
Spiller also talked about his wonderful sense of humor, saying, “He’s a real positive man.” And, she said, a real neatnik, in his physical appearance and in the meticulous way he kept his yard, continuing to mow and trim the bushes himself until neuropathy made that too difficult a year or so ago.
“He’s a gentle, humble man,” she said.
And he sang.
“He always led singing,” his daughter said. “I do not remember when he did not lead. He has a beautiful voice and sang at funerals and weddings. When they’d go to Uncle Charlie’s, they’d sit out on the porch with hymn books and everybody sing. We sang in the car. He sang while shaving.”
His son calls him the Rock of Gibraltar. “He’s been the most constant influence in my life,” Larry said. “He never wavers, just steady as a rock. He’s always been even tempered. He’s a good man, a good man.”
Both of his children describe him as handsome and boast that at almost 97 he doesn’t have a wrinkle. Karen even provided a close-up to prove it.
“They’re wonderful parents,” Larry added. “I couldn’t ask for better parents. I’m so blessed.”
When Irene and Gordon reflect for a moment on Gordon’s years as a song leader, he tries to recall the name of his favorite song to lead. Irene remembers, “Wonderful Story of Love.” Yes, he agrees, that’s it. He loved so many songs, but that one was easy to lead.
• • •
Irene: “He was a very good song leader.”
Gordon: “That’s not quite true. That’s an overstatement.”
Irene: “Everybody bragged on you.”
Gordon: “Don’t flower this up. We’re just plain, simple people. Sometimes I think we had a dull life, but we’ve been blessed.”
Irene: “Huh! We had a wonderful life!”
Want to help the Wallaces celebrate their anniversary? Cards may be sent care of the Faith Village Church of Christ, 4100 McNiel Ave., Wichita Falls, TX 76308.
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