Joplinite #4: Wallace Payne



wallace payne joplinite joplin mo
This photo is posted out of respect and admiration, to those who leave a legacy by being people always ready to learn and always ready to share. And it is posted to remind of the power of a photo- that a photograph can make us laugh, can make us cry, can help us remember. 

I encountered Wallace last year, while taking photos of the Murphysburg area with my friend Carrie, for the Joplin Convention & Visitors Bureau. Wallace was just out in his yard, and what started as a request on my part to take a photo of his beautiful home, became a 20 minute conversation between us & he about Joplin’s history, and about his own. 

Wallace passed away in April, as I found out when his granddaughter asked if this photograph could be used in his obituary. While it made me sad, I was so glad that I had met him, and that I’d asked to take his picture on a whim. I never would’ve guessed what that would mean later.

I asked the family for some fun facts about Wallace, and they were proud to give me some. I’ve included a few of them here. He was a fascinating guy, and a proud Joplinite.

-Wallace was born in 1926.
-he was described by his father as ‘odd, but good’, and was something of a genius from the start, beginning college courses at 16.
-He was in the navy during World War II as an aviation electronics technician.
-He later became an electrical engineer, and worked his way up to chief pipeline engineer for an oil company in Venuezuela. He lived there 13 years, married a lovely lady there named Gladys in 1954, and moved to Joplin in 1962 to work at Eagle Pitcher.
-while at Eagle Pitcher, he designed batteries for the air force and NASA. He & his team were instrumental in designing the battery that helped bring the Apollo 13 team back home. After Eagle Pitcher, he worked for many years as a consultant engineer.

-his passion was nuclear science. he was ‘fearless in challenging scientific dogma, once being told that if his theories proved correct, the Nobel committee would have to retract 7 prizes’.

-he was an avid chess player, beating the computer more often than not when he played against it.

And my favorite fact. His intellectual curiosity led him to collect endless amounts of information; and he LOVED to share it, to the extent that he became a regular contributor to wikipedia. Pretty with-it for someone born in 1926. Goes to show… if you never stop using your brain, you never really get old, do you?

Glad to know more about you, Wallace.

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