Obituary: the Rev. Robert Bruce Wallace

Grandfather, pastor, peacemaker, volunteer

The Rev. Robert Bruce Wallace died April 8 at the age of 90.

He was born in Phoenix, and lived for the early part of his life in Mesa, Arizona, where his grandfather had homesteaded in the 1890s. The Wallaces prided themselves in their Scottish heritage.

Bob was born in 1933, attended schools in Phoenix and entered the University of Redlands, where he graduated with a major in sociology and psychology. He graduated from the American Baptist Seminary of the West in Berkeley, California in 1958 and was ordained at First Baptist Church of Los Angeles. Most of his ministry was in college communities, including as campus minister at Arizona State University; senior minister at University Baptist and Brethren Church, Penn State University; senior minister of First Baptist Church in Ann Arbor, while serving as director of the American Baptist Campus Foundation at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor); and as senior minister of First Baptist Church of Redlands.

He concluded his pastoral ministry as senior minister of the First Baptist Church of Melrose, Massachusetts; however, in retirement he served as an interim chaplain at Stoney Brook University New York, as interim minister in Holden and Northborough Massachusetts, and most notably, as interim executive minister of the American Baptist Churches of Massachusetts.

His interests in ministry included health care and healing, justice concerns — especially housing (he helped to establish senior housing in Redlands and served on several boards for affordable housing) —, restorative justice, and peace concerns. He engaged in pulpit exchanges in England and India; taught as a volunteer in Ghana, Northeast India, and China; established sister church relationships in Nicaragua and Russia; led work projects in Mexico; and led study tours to Israel, Scotland, and Greece. He even enjoyed hiking the Inca Trail in Peru.

He and Peggy Wallace were married for 42 years and have six children and six grandchildren. They came to live at Pilgrim Place in 2007, and in his retirement, he served many important volunteer roles within the Pilgrim Place community; for example: town meeting moderator, chair of the Pilgrim Place Festival, admissions committee, and nominating committee.

But his presence was highlighted by his work for restorative justice and peace, themes which were integrated throughout his presence as a valued member of Pilgrim Place. He was part of a two year group working to lower the admission fee for at least one couple each year to enter the community. He served on the spiritual care team for years, visiting the health services center every Wednesday. “Bob was called upon as a conflict mediator because of his careful listening skills and his presence as a peacemaker,” his family shared. He was given the unofficial title of “Baptist Bob” or “pastor Bob.” He had a keen interest in politics and the interactions between politics, peace, and justice in the world. His wife Peggy describes their marriage as “one of faith and trust to the end.” She added, “He was the most kind and compassionate person that anyone could be.”

“Bob served his family, his church, his community, and his world with the wisdom and heart of a pastor,” his family added. “He will be dearly missed and forever remembered.”

A celebration of the life of Robert Bruce Wallace will be held at 3 p.m. Saturday, June 8 at Decker Hall, Pilgrim Place, 625 Mayflower Rd., Claremont, CA 91711.


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