July 19, 1931 — March 8, 2019
As a cancer research scientist at Roswell Park, John Clifton Wallace was focused and serious.
But on vacation, particularly while spending summers with his family in a friend's cabin at Windmill Point, he had an impish side.
He once filled a laundry bag with helium, attached lighted candles and pie plates, and launched it over Lake Erie "to the consternation of the locals," said his daughter, Patricia Wallace Nickard. Reports of the shiny flying object made the local news, she said, laughing.
"He liked to use his knowledge of science to cause mayhem," she said.
Mr. Wallace, of Snyder, who was known as Jack, died March 8, 2019, in the Rosa Coplon Living Center, where he had lived for a short time. He was 87.
He was born July 19, 1931, in Buffalo, the oldest son of Clifton Dewey Wallace and Helen Jaeckle Wallace. His father was a haberdasher and his mother sold Elizabeth Arden cosmetics. "They were a very dapper family," said Patricia Nickard.
Mr. Wallace graduated from Lafayette High School, and on Oct. 11, 1952, married Helen P. Bogdan. The same year, he was drafted into the U.S. Army during the Korean War.
An expert marksman, he served with the 45th Infantry Division. He fought at Pork Chop Hill as a forward observer for a mortar battery. "He was about 100 yards away from Pork Chop Hill with his battery," said Mr. Wallace's son-in-law, Gary Nickard. "He was in front of them, so he was more exposed to fire." At that battle, Mr. Wallace was struck in the head by a shell fragment and later awarded the Purple Heart. He was discharged in 1954 with the rank of first sergeant.
He served briefly in the Army Security Agency, then returned to Western New York and resumed his education. He earned his bachelor's degree in chemistry in 1963 and a magna cum laude master's degree in 1968, both from the University at Buffalo. At UB, Mr. Wallace also completed the coursework in 1983 for a doctorate in biophysics.
After working briefly as a metallurgist at Bethlehem Steel and as an analytical chemist in the chemical and pharmaceutical industry, he started work at Roswell Park in 1960. Mr. Wallace became a cancer research scientist in the Department of Biophysics.
His pioneering research included studies of X-ray diffraction and nuclear magnetic resonance imaging on such anti-cancer compounds as interferon. He produced numerous exotic chemical compounds for research and clinical trials in his laboratory and was co-author of 18 scientific papers.
From 1969 to 1975, Mr. Wallace taught geochemistry and biology at Buffalo State College; from 1979 to 1983 he taught mathematics, physics and mineralogy at UB.
He retired from Roswell Park in 2000, but continued to work there as a consultant, his daughter said.
Mr. Wallace was proud of his ancestry, which he traced back to the Scottish clan Wallace. His ancestors included three Revolutionary War soldiers, two of them colonels of militia, and a Civil War soldier. His family said his favorite toast was "To the Continental Congress and confusion to King George."
A member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Mr. Wallace was a passionate amateur astronomer and naturalist who specialized in spotting atmospheric phenomena with the naked eye, binoculars or a 1960s-era telescope.
His family said Mr. Wallace was an omnivorous reader of history and science, often scribbling notes in the margins of his books to "argue" with the authors, and an amateur historian of Western New York and the Niagara region of Canada.
He loved vacationing and traveling in Canada and hosting international visitors at the cabin. He was an avid fresh water fisherman.
He was a photography enthusiast, a talented amateur painter and skilled draftsman, said his daughter, as well as a classical music enthusiast, amateur violinist and pianist and an avid reader of Shakespeare.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Mr. Wallace was active with the Republican Party, assisting with Jack Kemp's congressional campaigns. As a scientific expert, he assisted then-Amherst Town Board Member Bill Kindel on environmental issues, including establishment of the LaClair-Kindel Wildlife Sanctuary.
A loving grandfather, his daughter said Mr. Wallace "never missed a recital, concert, or event in his grandchildren’s lives."
Besides his daughter and his wife of 66 years, Helen P. Wallace, Mr. Wallace is survived by his son, John C. Wallace Jr.; brother, David D. Wallace; two grandchildren and one great-grandson and many nieces and nephews.
A funeral service was held at 10 a.m. Wednesday in the Dietrich Funeral Home, 2480 Kensington Ave., Amherst. Memorials may be made to Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.