Died: June 4, 1973
Married: Alice Munn
Children: Mrs. Alice Scollin, Mrs. Barbara Stunzi, William J. Wallace and Sharon Wallace
William J. Wallace was chief of the Saranac Lake Police Force for twenty-seven years. He started the Santa's Jukebox program in 1948.
June 30, 2013. Raymond A. Scollin Comment: I believe my grandfather joined the Saranac Lake Police Department in 1938, and was promoted to Chief in 1946. Prior to 1946, he took a leave of absence from the Saranac Lake Police Department to finish training at the FBI Academy. He turned down a job offer with the FBI to come home. He maintained personal friendships at the FBI his entire career. I have a signed letter on FBI stationary from J. Edgar Hoover, dated December 2, 1946, congratulating him on his recent promotion to Chief. He remained Chief of the local Police Department until 1973, after 27 years as Chief and 35 years as a member of that Department.
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, June 5, 1973
Police Chief William Wallace Dead at 63
Dies by own hand at his home here
SARANAC LAKE — William Wallace, beloved Police Chief of Saranac Lake for 35 years, died by his own hand at home here yesterday. He was 63 years old.
Chief Wallace was loved throughout the community for his generous nature, genteel kindness and his disposition to think the very best of people.
He shot himself at home at 3:30 p.m. yesterday and died at 4:58 at Saranac Lake General Hospital.
As word of his death swept through the area the people whose lives he had touched (and that included nearly everyone in Saranac Lake) stood mute, ashen-faced with silence, remembering the kindness he had shown them or stories about kindnesses to others.
In recent weeks Chief Wallace had appeared only a shadow of his former self.
Distracted and depressed, the Chief was worried about charges leveled against his department.
No charges of actual wrongdoing were made against Chief Wallace and no one who had ever known him would have believed any such charges.
The State investigation Commission had released a report May 14 citing the local police department and justice courts for "ineptitude and inefficiency." The report stated that hundreds of dollars in traffic fines were missing from the police department.
Franklin County District Attorney Owens Grogan said today that Chief Wallace had not been implicated in the investigation and in fact, Grogan said, Chief Wallace had initiated the investigation by supplying his office with records.
The District Attorney also said that Chief Wallace was under physical and mental strain from a fall he suffered before the incident. He was on sick leave at the time the report was published and was still on leave yesterday.
Chief Wallace was scheduled to appear before a grand Jury later this week to testify on the investigation.
Because of his worsening health Bill was being watched closely by his family during the last days.
Yesterday afternoon, he excused himself from their company and retired to another room. There he shot himself in the head with a .38 caliber revolver.
Bill's wife, Alice, collapsed and was taken by ambulance to the hospital.
His daughter, Sharon, had made plans to be married Saturday to David Fregoe of Lake Placid.
He had been a policeman for 40 years, the first two as turnkey in the Franklin County Jail in Malone and the remainder on the Saranac Lake force. He had been chief for 25 years.
He was promoted to Sergeant on May 21, 1945 and was promoted to Chief on June 30, 1945.
In 1945, Chief Wallace attended the F.B.I. Academy in Washington D.C. He did so brilliantly that at graduation, he was invited to join the F.B.I., even though he was neither a lawyer nor an accountant, the two professions from which FBI agents are usually drawn.
As a police officer, he became known as firm, but compassionate.
He once told a reporter that the toughest part of his job was "giving a traffic ticket to a friend."
Over the years he was honored by many organizations: the Franklin County Bar Association, the Boys Club, the Moose Lodge, and once, the children at St. Bernard's School had a special cake baked and took it to the police station to present to him.
Chief Wallace was born on Jan. 29, 1910 in Syracuse, a son of Thomas P. and Betty Ulrich Wallace, and had lived in Saranac Lake for 57 years. His wife is the former Alice Munn of Saranac Lake.
His father died when he was two years of age and his mother came to Saranac Lake for surgery. When she recovered, she worked at the Guggenheim camp. Wallace grew up at the camp and later said that it was there he learned to love the outdoor life, and hunting and fishing.
He knew the lower lake like a book, and nearly every summer evening Chief Wallace would spend off-duty hours trolling along its shores for Northerns and bass with long, bright specially made bucktailed flies.
He most often fished the shore near the Guggenheim camp where he had grown up.
Friends who fished with him in recent years recall Chief Wallace looking forward to retirement years fishing that lake and that shore.
Chief Wallace often remarked about the growing pressures of his job and once remarked. "I could not go on unless I could come out here to relax on this beautiful lake.
Chief Wallace graduated from Saranac Lake High School in 1935.
He was a member of numerous organizations including, the Santa's Jukebox committee, the Wachtung Archery Club, the Saranac Lake Fish and Game Club, the FBI Academy Association, the Chiefs of Police Association. and he was closely associated with the Salvation Army.
Survivors, in addition to his wife, are: a son, William J. Wallace of Oradell, N.J.; three daughters, Mrs. Alice Scollin, Mrs. Barbara Stunzi, and Miss Sharon Wallace, all of Saranac Lake; and six grandchildren.
Friends may call this evening, beginning at 7:30, and tomorrow from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. at the Keough and Son Memorial Chapels. A Prayer Service will be held at 8 p.m., Wednesday.
A Mass of the Resurrection will be offered at 10:30 a.m., Thursday at St. Bernard's Church.
Contributions in his memory may be made to Danny Thomas's St. Jude's Hospital.
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, June 5, 1973
The mark of a man in a small town, at least a town as small as Saranac Lake, is what people say about him. To have served the public as a police officer and chief for nearly 40 years will generate a great deal of comment even without a tragedy of the scope which hit Saranac Lake yesterday at 3:30 p.m.
The overwhelming sadness of Bill Wallace's death had dented everyone's complacency in a way that is good for a community's conscience because every person in the village owed him a vote of thanks one way or another that he never got.
To see an entire career cloud over at the very end may have been too much for the man. But this isn't an answer. Bill Wallace would easily have weathered this storm in his prime but the man was sick in spirit at the time of his death
Nobody was blaming Bill Wallace for the things that were going wrong but he was blaming himself. In the final analysis there was nobody to turn to but his maker and in an act of desperation or surrender he chose a way that shocked and bewildered every man woman and child his life ever touched.
Bill was as fine a chief of police in his quiet but forceful way as any village could ask for. He lived the job but he never let the majesty of the law outweigh his own sense of justice and mercy and everyone was the better for it.
Bill was often split wide open with choices between duty and friendship and he usually managed to preserve both but often at great sacrifice to his own peach of mind.
Bill was a great swimmer and one of his first jobs for the village was as a life guard. He may have been slim and tall but he was built like Johnny Weismuller, an Olympic hero of the era. Even with an arm that had the muscles ripped out of it, he looked great on the beach.
He pursued the girls of the white sands even as you and I but Alice Munn was his chosen girl and when he strummed his ukulele and crooned "Paradise," she was it and they got married!
When Bill was sworn in as a police officer under Chief Jim Coughlin in 1935 he got his first touch of law enforcement and it seemed to suit him admirably even though Saranac Lake was a difficult and obstreperous town but never a crime town or a place that a girl couldn't walk home alone lat at night in perfect safety.
And Bill wanted it kept that way all the 38 years of his service in Saranac Lake law enforcement. His record as chief is matchless and the recent hint of departmental laxity can only be attributed to trust in others that was misplaced or abused.
Where else would a chief reach into his own pocket to cover up for a man who had been tempted and helped himself to money that was taken in as fines.
Bill was a nature lover and his one luxury, it seemed, was his camp on Lower Saranac and an annual sojourn to the upper reaches of the Canadian wilderness. There where the fishing was superlative, a man could get a grip on himself and return refreshed to small town police work which at best is never easy and often downright unpleasant.
He loved the woods and for years hunted with a bow and arrow which was in effect giving the deer all the best of it without taking away the thrill of the sport.
The famous "Operation Cocktail" for incapacitated New Years Eve imbibers became a hallmark of Saranac Lake police hospitality and news services carried it at years end the same way they did Ground Hog Day.
Bill had a great capacity for charity and as much as he hated going on the radio he steeled himself for the ordeal every December when it looked like the Santa Juke Box program was lagging. In its long history as a source of gifts for underprivileged children it never failed to elicit a splendid response once the chief appealed for funds.
If Saranac Lake maintains a special quality and magic for the people who grew up here much of that charm and allure will link directly to the deep love Bill Wallace had for the community and his unselfish efforts to keep it that way.
Perhaps he thought that he failed. He was never more wrong in his life.
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, June 5, 1973
How Do You Remember Bill Wallace?
An original man, too good to be true. An old-fashioned man. That was Bill Wallace. How will you remember him?
A family man? A religious man? A man who did not drink or smoke, or rarely used a cuss word?
Yes, an old-fashioned gentleman. Not a rare new breed, a rare old breed.
Bill Wallace was a man of some plain, simple qualities that many of us overlooked. Some qualities as simple as stopping his car to help an old person across the street … not when he was in uniform and driving a police car but many times when he was on his way to camp or going about his personal business.
Maybe you remember him stopping in the neighborhood to buy kool aid from some little kids who had .set up a stand on the sidewalk? Maybe you remember him delivering toys to the needy at Christmas or making an appeal on the radio for Santa's Juke Box so the police department could buy the toys to deliver?
None of us can pretend to know the many acts that he performed in his long service to this community. Bill Wallace was not the kind of man to brag, no, not even to admit, for fear of publicity, to some deed that he had performed.
In these last days when he was so depressed over the event that had taken place his family should know that never was a bad word uttered against Bill Wallace by any of the hundreds of people that we have talked to.
He was well known and respected throughout the Tri-Lakes. The residents of Lake Placid stood nearly in equal shock with the residents of Saranac Lake yesterday when the news of Bill's death was learned.
We do not pretend to know Bill Wallace as his close friends did. Not like Dick Gladd and Bud Miller and the hundreds of other close friends that knew him.
But we knew him as hundreds of others knew him in his years of service to this community . . . as a man respected and loved like few others who have passed this way.
The role of a public servant is a difficult one. More so in a small community where everyone knows everyone. Bill Wallace served under the elected officials of the village for nearly 40 years. He cooperated with all of them, used his quiet persuasion when he thought they were wrong but asked advice when he thought he needed it.
Shallow words, perhaps, for his grieving family but they know, as the rest of the community knows, that he was a rare, old-fashioned man who loved these mountains and the people who lived here and they loved him.