Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Deputy Dennis Wallace, 53, was laid to rest Tuesday in a service that drew thousands of mourners from near and far who wanted to give a final salute to a man who died in the service of his community.
"Dennis was a hero to many — compassionate in his service and dedicated in his profession," said Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson. "Dennis wore his badge with pride, loved his job and loved serving the community. Time will heal our pain, but we will never forget Dennis and his sacrifice.”
Wallace was shot and killed in the line of duty on Nov. 13 while investigating a suspicious vehicle at the Fox Grove Fishing Access.
The service for Wallace was complete with the full regalia of a fallen law enforcement member, including a bagpipe band, an honor guard, a procession of law enforcement vehicles that stretched for miles, and people all along the route waving flags and showing their support for Wallace and the sadness they feel for his loss.
“This is a tragedy that has shaken our community to its core and unfortunately it is a tragedy we see happening across the country,” said U. S. Rep. Jeff Denham, who was one of several dignitaries to attend the service, including California Gov. Jerry Brown.
Wallace’s brother and Modesto Police Department Detective Dave Wallace was presented with a medal of honor and the badge Wallace was wearing the day he was killed. Dave Wallace recalled his brother’s enthusiasm for his job and how Wallace would still regale his brother with detailed stories about his shifts, even decades into the profession. He also told stories of his brother’s generosity and his mischievous side, but mostly of his love of community and family.
"We loved each other, and we loved to tell each other this," Dave Wallace said. "It has been very, very hard, but I know that through this, Dennis would want us to smile and laugh. In time, we will smile, we will laugh and we will heal. With your help, we will turn tears of sorrow into tears of joy.
"Dennis Wallace's life cannot be remembered for how he died, but by how he lived,” continued Dave Wallace. “He lived to smile, laugh and serve.”
Wallace had a 20-year career in law enforcement and found his niche early on by working with and serving Stanislaus County youth. Through his work as a certified D.A.R.E. officer he strove hard to instill in children positive life lessons and to focus on success and abstain from substance abuse.
Elementary school teacher Marika Morrison recalled Wallace visiting students at the Salida campus outside his official D.A.R.E. duties just to give them guidance and so they would have someone who would listen to them.
"Deputy Wallace didn't just inspire the students, but inspired me, as well, to listen to the students," Morrison said.
Morrison recounted how Wallace would give his phone number to the students as they moved on into high school and told them they could call him anytime they needed and that he would come not as a deputy, but as a friend.
“Dennis never turned his concern off,” Morrison said.
Family friend George Carr also recalled Wallace’s commitment to serving the community and creating strong, lasting bonds with the youth.
"He used the uniform for building partnerships and trust between law enforcement and youth,” Carr said. “He had a gift for working with young people."
Outside of his profession, Wallace continued his commitment to youth. He was the “fun Uncle” to 34 nieces, nephews and godchildren and loved being a part of their lives.
“He started a soccer league in Hughson because he saw what a positive influence it had on his nieces,” Dave Wallace said.
Wallace was instrumental in Hughson’s youth soccer. He also refereed youth football games, organized pancake breakfast fundraisers and participated in many of Hughson’s community events.
Jacob Wallace, his nephew, said his uncle had left him and his cousins with an example of a life well-lived.
“The time to honor him is not limited to today,” Jacob Wallace said. “We will honor him with the rest of our lives. We will honor him by carrying on and being the best that we can be throughout our lives.”