Remembering George and Dick Wallace

Dick Wallace: 1932–2005

Dick GraduationRichard "Dick" Lee Wallace was born in 1932 on the family farm in Burlington, Washington. Dick lived his entire life in Burlington and was a standout football player and wrestler in high school. He was student body president his senior year and graduated from Burlington-Edison High School in 1950.

Dick was a well respected farmer, known  for his outgoing personality and sense of humor as well as for his work ethic and legendary resourcefulness. Science and mathematics were Dick's favorite subjects in college and he applied those skills to potato farming. Dick experimented with new techniques and varieties each season in an effort to improve the crop. He displayed an innate talent for engineering, adapting equipment, often "on the fly", with only the parts and tools that were at hand.

Dick was an avid fisherman. He enjoyed fishing for salmon on Alaskan rivers and in the nearby San Juan Islands from his own boat. While an intense person with both a quick wit and temper, Dick was able to relax with friends and family.

Dick passed away in 2005 following a long battle with cancer. Even now, more than a decade later, when confronted with a challenge we often wonder what Dick would do.



George W. Wallace: 1930–2018

George Wallace was born September 11, 1930, and died July 09, 2018, on the family farm northwest of Burlington. 

George was the eighth child of Robert Wallace, an Irish immigrant farmer, and Cecil (Cruikshank) Wallace, a former Birdsview school teacher. George’s childhood was filled with farm work, duck hunting and fishing. At Burlington-Edison High School, he enjoyed playing drums in the band, wrestling and track. In high school George met his future wife Grace Balch, a trumpet player in the band and little sister of his good friend Herb Balch. 

In 1949 George’s mother became very sick with diabetes and passed away, leaving George and his younger brother Dick more responsibilities on their father’s farm. The brothers also began their own farming partnership and later purchased two new Ford dump trucks for commercial gravel hauling. Compulsive workers, they used every available moment to further their fledgling business ventures. 

After graduating from BEHS in 1948, George attended Skagit Valley Junior College where he ran the 440-yard dash.  After graduating from Skagit, George served in the Air Force during the Korean War and was stationed at Murphy Dome Air Force Station, an early warning radar station near Fairbanks. The base had just opened in 1951, and George’s unit from Bellingham was among the first to be stationed there. One of his primary duties was operating a bulldozer to clear snow from roads leading to the base. Takeaways from his time in Alaska included memories of the extreme weather (100F to minus 70), amazing wildlife, vistas of Denali and most importantly the lifelong friendships forged on the remote base.

After his Air Force service, George returned to Washington where he continued working with Dick, helping his father with his farm, and simultaneously studying accounting at the University of Washington. He also found time for romance and in 1954 married Grace Balch. 

George and Grace both graduated from the University of Washington in 1957. College took an extra couple of years as they alternated attending school and returning to Skagit County to work for the next quarter’s tuition. A further complication was the birth of their first child in early 1955. The young parents took turns watching the infant on campus and attending classes. 

George and Grace returned to the valley full time in 1957. George was eager to find work as an accountant to provide for his young family. He was offered an accounting position at Texaco’s soon-to-be-opened refinery in Anacortes, but he accepted his brother Norm’s offer of employment at Norm Wallace Agency instead because he would get his first paycheck sooner. He and Norm sold insurance, real estate and prepared income tax returns - all while George farmed on the side and Norm raised purebred dogs. George and Norm joked that their ideal client would buy insurance, a house, have their taxes done and buy potatoes and a dog.

George and Dick continued to expand their farm – always emphasizing hard work frugal management over fast growth. George said that (aside from Grace), there were only a few people that he could trust and tolerate enough to be his business partners and he was lucky that two of them were his brothers Norm and Dick.

True partners in life, George and Grace had a long and fruitful marriage. They raised four children and both contributed to the success of the farm. George was a devoted father and enjoyed teaching his kids about farm life. Chores and farm work were interspersed with fishing, hunting, kite flying, ping-pong and building stilts. George and Grace were ardent Husky fans and attended nearly all home football games. He and Grace traveled widely with favorite trips to Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Ireland. They also enjoyed traveling with the Skagit Valley College Alumni and annual trips to Maui.

George’s legacy is his family and his influence in the broader community. George was proud to be a member of the Burlington Rotary Club and also served as a director of Skagit Farmers Supply for many years. Wallace & Associates continues as a successful insurance agency and Wallace Farms carries on with George’s sons Jack and Norm and nephew Tim. 

George is survived by his brother Bill (Mary), four children Mark (Jan), Jack (Liz), Norm (Jennifer Smith), and Joanne (Dan) Olson, seven grandchildren (Luke, Rachel, Lisa, Gina, Maria, Isaac and Emily) and 29 nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents, wife Grace, infant son Paul, brothers Norman, Robert, Tom, Jack, and Dick and sisters Pat and Kathryn.

Memorial donations may be made to American Cancer Society or Mount Vernon Christian School.