News Press

Grief overflows at funeral

More than 100 mourn loss of 6-year-old James Wallace

By SHARON TURCO, sturco@news-press.com
Originally published 9/9/01
News Press

The same lullaby that helped 6-year-old James Wallace fall asleep as a baby was the last song sung before he was buried.

More than 100 people gathered to mourn James’ death before his burial at Fort Myers Memorial Gardens on Saturday, many of whom broke into sobs at lyrics such as, “guard thee at rest, go with God and be blessed” from Brahm’s Lullaby.

James’ father, Bill Wallace, broke away from family hugs to kiss the small white casket. His sons Kenny, 16, and Greg, 19, were near to draw him back into their arms.

“I’m comforted only by knowing that James is with Jesus,” Kenny said. “The second James died, he was already in Jesus’ arms.”

Leslie Wallace, James’ mother, was not there, nor was his grandmother Kathleen Wallace.

Leslie Wallace is accused of going on a shooting rampage Sept. 2, killing James in the family’s North Fort Myers home, then attempting to kill Kenny, blaming her mother-in-law’s constant complaints about the boys.

The Wallace family had lived with Bill Wallace’s mother since February to help care for her after her husband died.

Lee County sheriff’s deputies stopped Leslie Wallace’s frenzy in a shoot-out on the Caloosahatchee Bridge less than an hour after she shot James, according to sheriff’s officials.

Leslie Wallace remains in Lee Memorial Hospital in good condition.

Kathleen Wallace was too distraught to attend her grandson’s funeral, a family friend said.

Pastor Hal Wynn of Northside Baptist Church and Pastor Steve Rogers, of New Wine Ministries, where Kenny worships, spoke to James’ family and friends during a service at Wynn’s church earlier in the day.

“At a time like this we all feel a sense of disturbance because the death is not natural,” Wynn said. “Not only did James die very young, but he died tragically, not as the result of an accident or disease.”

Wynn said that God has a secret will.

“Even if we don’t understand why James died, we can understand that God’s will is good,” Wynn said.

Wynn also spoke of God’s providence, pointing to how a Bible that Kenny had been carrying stopped a shot that Leslie Wallace is accused of firing at him.

“We have thanks that Kenny is here,” Wynn said. “There could have very easily been three coffins here. That was the intent.

“We can be thankful that there aren’t,” Wynn said.

Saundra Holtz, Leslie Wallace’s mother who came from Phoenix to attend her grandson’s funeral, found those words difficult to hear, she said.

“Leslie truly loved her children,” Holtz said after the burial. “She has been fragile mentally and was driven to an incredible act of desperation.

“I ask that people not judge my daughter.”

Bill Wallace has previously said that his wife suffered from mental illness and was under a psychiatrist’s care.

One of the youngest mourners was William “Bubba” Walker, James’ best friend.

“It’s been a tough week,” said Dina Walker, Bubba’s mother. “He goes to church and knows about death, but it was hard to lose his best friend.”

James died on Bubba’s 7th birthday. James was to attend his party Saturday.

“We always said we’d be best friends forever,” Bubba said. “Every time when he was crying I would cheer him up.”

Through tears Bubba said he plans to donate some of his birthday money to James’ family.

There were smiles too. Happy memories of James sparked laughter at times.

“About three weeks ago James cut his bangs into a zigzag,” said Sarah Guy, 25, Greg Wallace’s fiancee.

“Nobody could be upset with him,” said LuAnn Guy, Sarah Guy’s mother. “Instead, we all kidded around that it was the latest hair style.”

James’ loving personality made it hard for anybody to be mad at him, Sarah Guy said.

“Everyone just clicked with him,” she said.

Wynn concluded the memorial service with the thoughts that are so close to Kenny’s heart.

“There is an afterlife,” Wynn said. “There was not even for a nanosecond that James was alone between the time that James was here and when he was in the arms of the Lord.

“He welcomes James to a place more wonderful than even Disney World,” he said. “We can be certain there’s going to a reunion because Jesus promised life eternal.”