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Wallace Lee Starwalt

Wallace Lee Starwalt

Wallace Lee Starwalt of Dunkirk, N.Y. passed away peacefully at his home on Friday, March 12 with his wife, daughter, and three granddaughters by his side.

Born on Dec. 1, 1929 in Coles County, Illinois, Wallace was the son of the late Frank and Clarissa (Carpenter) Starwalt. He had a younger brother, Philip Dean, and an unborn sibling who both perished in a tragic house fire in 1938 along with his mother.

He attended rural schools until the 8th grade, and then Hindsboro Elementary & High School, where he graduated as salutatorian, Class of 1947. Wallace, affectionately known as Wally, continued to keep in touch with his classmates via phone conversations, Facebook, and E-mails. Having attended his 70th HS reunion in Arcola, I.L. in July of 2017, he was looking forward to seeing cherished friends again at the 75th reunion, to be held in July of 2022.

Wallace proudly enlisted in the US Air Force in 1948. After Basic Training, he was sent to Japan and was trained as a Communication Technician, specializing in repair and maintenance of communication equipment for P-51 fighter planes. At the onset of the Korean War, Wallace and his Fighter Group were transferred to South Korea. After he received a promotion to Senior Communications Engineer and then S/Sgt E-5, he and his crew repaired and inspected all preflight Air Force communications equipment.

Wallace served honorably throughout the Korean War and was stationed in the Far East for nearly two years. His leadership, bravery, and service earned him the Japanese Occupation Medal, Korean Service Medal, Bronze Service Star, and the Republic of Korea (ROK) Presidential Unit Citation.

The lifelong career of Wallace began in 1955 as a Groundman for the former Nickel Plate Railroad, later the Norfolk & Western Railroad, and now the Norfolk & Southern Railroad. For 35 years, Wallace braved snowstorms, rainstorms, and heatwaves as he performed the duties of Cable Splicer, District Lineman, retiring as District Communications Engineer.

In the mid-1950s while an assistant in a travel unit which was dubbed, “The Gang,” Wallace began an extended courtship with Dorothy Bernadine Bielat, of Dunkirk. He awaited a permanent railroad communications position in Western New York and converted to the faith that Dorothy and her family cherished, Roman Catholicism. During private and group classes which helped him prepare for Baptism and Confirmation into the Catholic Church, Wallace proposed to Dorothy and they were married on July 11, 1964, purchasing their first home together in Silver Creek, N.Y.

As a devoted husband and father, Wallace embraced a new hobby of photography, and was often seen with camera in hand at many functions at Our Lady of Mount Carmel (OLMC) Catholic School and Parish. He created and built a darkroom in his home and often enjoyed developing film and teaching the hobby to his daughter, Michele. As an amateur photographer, Wallace took thousands of photos of wildlife, nature, and family events. Parishioners of OLMC and students at the parish school fondly remember Mr. Starwalt with his camera at Christmas plays, First Communions, Confirmations, and most all church and school fundraisers.

Years later Wallace called himself the “unofficial photographer” of his granddaughters’ school, NCCS – Northern Chautauqua Catholic School. After the merged school’s inception, Wallace scheduled photo sessions with every Pastor of the school’s supporting Parishes. Each Pastor and each church building’s exterior were meticulously photographed, professionally mounted, and framed, and then hung stately in the first-floor hallway for over two decades. As new Pastors were assigned to area churches, Wallace would introduce himself, brag a little bit about his granddaughters, schedule a photo session, and then make sure the newly captured image was placed in the frame prominently above the photo of the priest’s church.

For all whom loved this kind and gracious gentleman, they know that the great outdoors – archery, target shooting, and whitetail deer hunting – was a profound passion and sport, one which he tremendously enjoyed with his brothers-in-law and nephews. Wallace received a coveted certificate from the National Rifle Association of America when he was inducted into the Millennium Honor Roll on November 22, 2000. He became a New York State Certified Bowhunter Safety Instructor, a role in which he excelled for 15 years. During the last decade of his life, former students enjoyed reminiscing with him. They would always mention the impact he made on them in respect to landowners’ rights, always seeking permission before traipsing onto someone’s property, along with harvesting deer, target accuracy, and the utmost safety practices.

For many decades, he belonged to the Hanover Fish & Game Club, serving as a board member, and officer. Wallace enjoyed the Mother’s Day Pancake Breakfasts prepared for moms and their children, by himself and other male members of the Holy Name Society at OLMC. He was an usher at weekly Mass, Bingo worker, and occasional Bingo caller. Additionally, Wallace was a parishioner of Blessed Mary Angela Parish, chorister at the St. Hedwig’s site, and a member in good standing at the American Legion Post #62 in Dunkirk.

For nearly 50 years, Wallace and his wife Dorothy, have been faithful and active members of Our Lady’s Rosary Makers, a member driven, non-profit, Catholic lay apostolate within the Archdiocese of Louisville, K.Y. whose mission is to spread devotion through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, by making and sharing the Rosary with the world’s spiritually needy. The Starwalts have made thousands of Rosaries with Dorothy’s sister, Lucille Bielat, and their friends, Raymond Schrantz and Arlene Kalfas, all of whom are now deceased. Many Rosaries were also provided to inmates at Lakeview Shock Incarceration Correctional Facility, and to dozens of Missionaries all over the world. Every May, the Month of Mary, since 1991, the couple lovingly continue to make Purple and Gold Rosaries for each Kindergarten student at Northern Chautauqua Catholic School.

Beginning in mid-February of 2020, new “family” members were brought into the Starwalt home, through Chautauqua Hospice and Palliative Care. RN Phil, Social Worker Rachel, and RN Mary became permanent fixtures in Wallace’s life and helped him and his family enjoy each day to its fullest. While Wallace did not venture down the water slide at the annual summer celebration, he did look forward to a cold German draft beer on occasion, listening to his great-granddaughter sing solos or duets at children’s Masses, “supervising” the gazebo construction in his granddaughter’s back yard, countless walks, Sunday visits with his beloved North East, P.A. relatives, morning tea on the backyard swing, visiting with family and friends on a daily basis, and mowing the lawn with his prized John Deere.

His last year on this planet was not filled with fear and trepidation, but a resounding acceptance of when his Lord and Savior chose to call him home. Wallace’s daily blessings remained a consistent and treasured part of his life, until the very moment he took his last breath. The Hospice Heroes gave abundant gifts to the Starwalt Patriarch through exceptional medical care, constant support, and heartfelt dedication for which the family is eternally grateful.

A most generous soul, always giving and helping others with a cheerful smile on his face, and never wanting to be recognized for his work or contributions, this humble man will always be remembered by the deep faith which sustained him, his tremendous dedication and work ethic, and the immense and bountiful love which he poured out daily upon his family. In his words, “My God and Church, my wife, daughter, granddaughters, and great-grandchildren, are the loves of my life.”

Wallace is predeceased by his parents, Frank and Clarissa (Carpenter) Starwalt; brother, Philip Dean Starwalt, unborn sibling Starwalt; and sister, Jean (Starwalt) Miller. He is survived by his wife of 56 years, Dorothy Bernadine (Bielat) Starwalt; daughter Michele (Steven) Starwalt-Woods; grand-daughters, Clarissa Abendschein (Zack), Kristin (Mat) Smithers, and Jessica (Eric) Vara; great-grandchildren, Sophia, Lily, Logan, Anthony, Alarah, and Carter; and niece Shawn Board.

Relatives and friends are invited to attend a Roman Catholic Mass of Christian Burial which will celebrate the life of Wallace Lee Starwalt, Wednesday, March 17 at 11 a.m. at St. Hyacinth’s Church of Blessed Mary Angela Parish, 295 Lake Shore Drive East, Dunkirk, N.Y. There will be no calling hours. Full Military honors will be accorded by the Dunkirk Joint Veterans Council National Honor Guard.

Interment will immediately follow at St. Hedwig’s Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations in Wallace’s memory be made to the Bielat Family Scholarship Fund through Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation, 212 Lake Shore Drive West, Dunkirk N.Y. 14048. The annual schoalrships are awarded to elementary students enrolled in Buffalo Diocesan Catholic Schools, and through NCCF, to a graduating Dunkirk High School Senior in good standing during their freshman year at a Catholic college.

Memorials may also be made to Chautauqua Hospice and Palliative Care, 20 West Fairmount Avenue, Lakewood, N.Y. 14750.

Arrangements are by the McGraw-Kowal Funeral Home, Dunkirk.

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