J.D. (John) Wallace

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John Wallace, ALS

John was born September 15, 1954 and passed away August 23, 2012.

It is my honour to be able to share with you, some memories and stories about my good friend John.

High School

I met John in 1969, 43 years ago, in Grade 10 or 11, at South Carleton High School, in Richmond, Ontario. Since then John has been a classmate, a teammate, a co-worker, a fellow Alberta Land Surveyor, a best man at my wedding but best of all, a true friend.

High school basketball memories take me back to some of our early days. I played centre and John played guard. He was the ‘Steve Nash’ of our team!! In Grade 13, we had a school trip to the Quebec Winter Carnival—a big event for two country guys!! The entire trip was a big party for the two of us and about 18 other classmates.


John and I moved on to college, attending Algonquin College in Ottawa, both taking Civil Engineering Technology. It was here we were introduced to surveying.

In first year, both of us made the college basketball team. Weekend games meant trips to the college pub, after the games were over. John liked cars, and had a few ‘fixer-uppers.” This was lucky for me because we carpooled together in John’s “treasures!” One of his favorites was a Datsun 510. John could not resist a challenge, so one night we raced home from Ottawa to North Gower—John in his beloved Datsun 510 and me in my trusty Dodge Dart. There were several high-speed passes. The type of thing you pray as a parent that your kids would never do!


I came to Calgary in March 1976 and John arrived in April for a visit, driving another “treasure”—his new, shiny, blue Mustang. We skied and partied and then he drove home, only to return again in October.


John and I both got jobs with McElhanney Land Surveys in 1976. John stayed with McElhanney until 1987 and, during that time, we constantly were competing to see which one could get the most overtime hours in a month. Our goal was 100 overtime hours per month or we would accuse the loser of being a slacker!

At one point, John was horsing around with a co-worker and John broke his ankle. You guessed it—he could not work as a surveyor for a few weeks, but he played some of his best golf games while wearing that walking cast!

John never wore a watch. He needed one for star shots. He bought a watch and tried to claim it on his expense report. Despite several attempts, he never was able to get this purchase approved.


John bought his first house in Calgary in May 1978. I was his roommate and eventually went on to buy the house from him. Many of us today share memories of the Stampede breakfasts, other events and parties at 2510 - 4 Avenue NW!

Glenda and John

John met Glenda while living at 2510 and they became an item! John asked me to be the best man for his wedding in October 1980. One of my favorite memories from that day was the going-away- car filled to roof with straw. This slowed down their attempt to make a fast “get-a-way” as they had to pull enough straw out to get in and drive the car. The next year, John returned the favour and was the best man at my wedding. I asked him if I could use his car to make my “get-a-way” and all I got was a big NO! No more straw in his car!

Medicine Hat

John’s career took him to Medicine Hat and from there on to St. Albert. He somehow became an Oiler/ Eskimo fan while in St. Albert.

Since his return to Calgary, I have failed in my attempts to convert him away from those Edmonton teams.

Over the 24 years John was not living in Calgary, our friendship continued, regardless of the distance between us.


The golf course was one of our favorite meeting places. Money regularly changed hands with these games. John was a dedicated, but injury prone golfer.

Kelowna—New golf shoes, (outfoxed Peter Brown, who wanted the same pair of shoes), no carts to rent, had to walk, no old shoes as backups—all this led to blisters and yet another use for duct tape as a first aid treatment. He wore bedroom slippers to work for several days after, to allow his feet to heal.

Wolf Creek—Fell on his fist and hurt his ribs trying to avoid a wayward golf ball. He finished the round as a passenger in the golf cart. He reinjured the same ribs again a couple of years ago, fishing in the Pacific.

Glen Eagles—Last game of golf with John was October 19, 2011. John, John’s son Jason, Peter Brown and I enjoyed a beautiful fall day of golf, with a spectacular view of the Rockies—a great memory!

Bushing—Golf always finished with a game we fondly know as bushing. The loser buys the food and cocktails. Losing is considered shameful to the experienced player. This became as much fun for us as the golf. Any “newbie”’ to the bushing game somehow got the impression the bushing was fixed. John earned many a free dinner and cocktails with his keen bushing skills!

Characteristics and Closing

When preparing to write this tribute to John, I asked some of my family members and friends what they thought of when remembering John.

Repeatedly people remember John as being enthusiastic and full of energy, always eager and up for anything. Also, his positive outlook on life was noticed by all.

When John learned he was sick, he carried on and did not let his diagnosis slow him down or change anything he did. One week before John passed away, we were salmon fishing off the coast of Vancouver Island. John was not feeling well, but he was still positive and keen to be there. He was a real trooper to the end and a really great inspiration.

Last Quote

John had a few good quotes and the one I remember that he would say when getting ready to head out on the town was: I got my spectacles, testicles, wallet and watch—let’s go!

Thanks for the opportunity to share a few of my memories about my good friend John.

Bernie McKenna, ALS