Harry Eugene (Gene) Wallace, of Shawnee, passed away on December 19, 2022, at the age of 89. He was born May 9, 1933, in Willmore, Pennsylvania to Harry William Wallace and Edith Mae Hamilton Wallace. Gene grew up in St. Louis, Missouri where he tells tales of playing stick ball in the street. He graduated from Roosevelt High School and soon after started his career in baseball.
He signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1953 where he was assigned to the Shawnee Hawks of the Sooner State League. Gene only played 22 games before he was called to active duty in the United States Army.
After his tour of duty, he returned to Shawnee where he played the 1955 season. During the span of his career, he played in 10-plus seasons of minor league baseball. He played 1,145 games, had 3,894 at bats, scored 472 runs and collected 1,036 hits for a .272 career batting average.
While in Shawnee, Gene met the love of his life and married LaVonna Marie Russell on November 26, 1955. They created a life surrounded by the community of Oklahoma Baptist University. Gene would attend classes at Oklahoma Baptist during the fall semesters from 1957 until he graduated in 1964. He would attend classes in the fall and then play baseball in the spring. After leaving professional baseball after the 1964 season, he earned his master’s degree from the University of Oklahoma.
In the fall of 1965, Gene joined the OBU staff as head baseball coach, assistant basketball coach, instructor of physical education, and director of Brotherhood Dormitory. He also coached golf in 1977. Gene was the head men’s basketball coach from 1970 – 1978. Gene would go on to be the head coach of women’s basketball between 1987 and 1989.
Gene was a devoted husband and father, but his greatest love was being a grandpa, or Pop, as his granddaughters called him. Pop loved “his girls” and never missed an opportunity to support them. He attended more dance recitals, soccer games (or practices), basketball games, t-ball games or dance competitions than ever imagined.
Gene was preceded in death by his wife, LaVonna Wallace, and his parents Harry and Edith Wallace, as well as his sister Mildred and his brother David. Gene is survived by his sons Doug Wallace of Edmond, Ok; his son Steve Wallace (Michelle) of Shawnee, OK; and his granddaughters Morgan and Emma Wallace.
A service will be held Wednesday, December 21 at Raley Chapel on the campus of Oklahoma Baptist University at 10:00 am. Services are under the direction of McElyea & Owens Funeral Group. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Oklahoma Baptist University.
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