Radical of Rose Island Road
as a journalist, activist, animal lover
members, others read Wallace's letters
at a July memorial event in his honor
Helen E. McKinney
PROSPECT, Ky. (August 2006) Known to the world
as a civil rights activist, Henry Wallace was much more than that to
his six children. When he died April 19, he left behind a legacy of
tolerance for his family to carry on.
Kentucky Edition Cover
Hell be very much missed, said daughter
Leoni Santander, 36. Santander is one of six children who grew up in
the Wallace household. Other siblings include Carla Wallace, Sonja deVries,
Henry Brian Wallace, Naomi Wallace and Sharon Wallace. He also has one
sister living, Augusta Wallace Lyons, 92, of Louisville.
Santander said her father had a great sense of humor. Its
how he dealt with a lot of political issues, she said.
Wallace was surrounded by political issues a good deal of his life.
He often marched at civil rights demonstrations and spoke out against
the Vietnam War, racial injustice and the American backing of Latin
Daughter Naomi remembers attending demonstrations as a child with her
father and mother, Sonja deVries, who was also involved in the civil
rights movement. He made it fun, said Naomi. He allowed
his children to bring pets, one in particular being a lamb that wore
a sticker toting, Get out of Vietnam.
But on a more serious note, what Naomi and her siblings learned from
such experiences stuck with them for life. Her father taught her that,
In this adventure we call life, were all connected, and
an injury or injustice to one affects us all, she said.
Wallaces travels and an open mind made him who he was, said Santander.
His father, Tom Wallace, was editor of The Louisville Times from 1930
through World War II. His mother, Augusta French Wallace, was heir to
a pharmaceutical fortune.
Wallace attended private schools and left Kentucky Military Institute
before finishing his senior year to sail around South America on a merchant
ship. He returned to his home state to attend the University of Kentucky.
Journalism and a sense of travel were in his blood. Relying on his Spanish
skills, he landed a job working for a newspaper in Puerto Rico and eventually
worked his way up to a job with the Havana Post.
He was really captivated by Cuba, said Leoni.
courtesy of the Wallace-deVries family
Wallace poses with the cans
of nutritional drink he lived on in his
latter months of life. This photo
was taken during his trip to Mexico
and Cuba just a month before he died.
Wallace was an avid supporter of the Cuban Revolution
and Fidel Castro. Before the Revolution, said Leoni, Cuban citizens
could not read and write and had no health care system. Wallace saw
the Revolution as a channel to bring about a much-needed change.
Wallace first went to Cuba in the 1940s as a journalist. By living and
working there, He saw how unequal and unjust the society was,
said daughter Sonja deVries. After the revolution, he was inspired
by was he saw.
Cuba became an example of how things can be done differently, said deVries.
Everyone has different views on dads involvement in Cuba,
said his son Henry. He said his father provided verbal support to the
cause and understood why change needed to happen and he spoke
out about it.
Wallace worked for a time as a Time-Life correspondent. In 1951, Wallace
moved to Paris and landed a job with Time Magazine covering North Africa.
He frequently traveled to the Middle East, said Leoni.
It was while traveling across the desert with a caravan,
he met his future first wife, Sonia deVries, a journalist from Holland.
They fell in love and traveled for two to three years together,
said Leoni. They married in Beruit in the late 1950s.
The Wallaces returned to Prospect to raise their family. Naomi
said the family would often travel to Amsterdam, and the children grew
up between the two locations.
She recalls winters in Prospect, where Wallace would go sledding with
his children. The children would sleigh down a steep hill, and Wallace
would tie their sleds together at the bottom of the hill and use a jeep
to pull them back up to the top so the children could do the same thing
all over again.
In cases like this, My father was extremely patient, Naomi
said, laughing. Wallace was always taking his children adventuring,
she said. They would trek to the creeks on their farm in search of snakes
and turtles, which we left in their natural habitat.
Naomi also remembers her father teaching her to fly fish. As she was
casting into the river, she heard a quiet curse word behind her. Startled,
she turned to find that she had hooked her father in the ear. But the
quiet curse word was the only thing he said.
Next to his children, civil rights and the environment were his greatest
passions in life, said Naomi. He focused on preserving the land around
him for future generations to enjoy.
was Henry Wallace?
Henry F. Wallace
was born June 12, 1915, and died April 19, 2006, at age 90.
He was known in his home of Prospect, Ky., as an ardent activist,
conservationist and journalist. He inherited his jounalistic genes
from his father, Tom Wallace, who had served as the editor of
The Louisville Times from 1930 through World War II.
Henry Wallace had early stints as a reporter in Lexington, Ky.,
and in public relations. He answered an ad to work for a newspaper
in Puerto Rico. After World War II he worked for Cuba's Havana
Post and was a stringer for other news organizations, including
a period as a Time-Life correspondent. He became the press agent
for the Hotel Nacional in Havana and soon became involved in Cuba's
social and political circles.
In 1951, he moved to Paris, where he worked with Time Magazine
covering much of North Africa. He met his first wife, Sonja deVries,
in Tangier. After extensive travel, the couple moved to Prospect
in the late 1950s and started raising their family. They later
Tom Wallace, meanwhile, was an ardent conservationist who bought
the original part of the family farm in 1911. Henry's mother,
Augusta French Wallace, was an heir to a pharmaceutical fortune.
Henry took over the family farm in 1961 when his father died.
Throughout his life, Henry Wallace appeared at numerous political
demonstrations in support of the Cuban Revolution. He admired
Cuban President Fidel Castro for standing up to the U.S. administration.
Late in life, Wallace was seen taking part in demonstrations while
in a wheelchair.
Locally, he was famous for his letters to the editor and for the
free mini-zoo he created at his family's 600-acre farm as a token
of his conservatism. The zoo, which still operates by donation,
cares for injured, sick and abandoned exotic and domestic animals.
Henry has spoken out against or written about U.S. administration
policies toward the Vietnam War, the arms race, racial injustice,
gay rights and the American backing of Latin American dictators.
Not long after his divorce from Sonja, he married his second wife,
Peggy Wier, who died in 1990.
Wallace had five daughters and a son by his first wife: Sonja
deVries of Louisville; Carla Wallace of Louisville; Leoni Santander
of Amsterdam; Naomi Wallace of North Yorkshire, England; Sharon
Wallace of Louisville; and Henry Brian Wallace of Prospect. He
also is survived by a sister, Augusta Wallace Lyons of Louisville
and his ex-wife, Sonja deVries of Amsterdam.
In 2000, Wallace and his six children committed to preserving
the family farm on Rose Island Road in Prospect by signing a conservation
easement that protects it from development. The easement was estimated
to be worth $8.1 million and probably remains the largest in monetary
value in Kentucky, state officials say.
Information gathered from various
In 1911, Wallaces father bought a farm on Rose Island
Road in Prospect. Wallace took over the farm in 1961 upon his fathers
death. Wallaces 600-acre farm, Moncada, will always remain a haven
from development, due to a conservation easement he and his children
signed in 2000.
His vision of preserving land was a wise decision, said
Leoni, who lives in Amsterdam. Upon returning to Prospect for her fathers
July 26 memorial service in Louisville, she said she was amazed at how
quickly the area had developed.
Henrys Ark rests on roughly 30 acres of the farm and is a mini-zoo
that is home to camels, bison, goats, yaks and 41 deer. It is
a gift to the community, said Penny Schaefer, director of Henrys
Ark. The zoo can be toured year round and is visited by 40,000 to 50,000
people annually. Admission is free but donations are accepted.
Schaefer came to work for Wallace in the mid 1980s as a housekeeper.
As Wallace collected more animals, currently 200 in all, she became
director of the zoo, overseeing the daily operations. The zoo takes
in rescued animals and is operated strictly by donations.
Dad always loved animals, said Henry Jr.
Hed have odd pets like groundhogs and opossums, and he began the
zoo with five Japanese deer in the early 1970s. He bred the deer and
the herd grew, all the while collecting other animals as well, said
And Wallace always took time for his children, said Henry
Jr. He took them to school events and whatever we were involved
in, he was involved in.
Wallace was 48 when his son was born, and he was worried that he wouldnt
live to see me grow up, said Henry Jr. He and his father lived together
at Moncada for a time, while his sisters were staying in Amsterdam.
Henry Jr. said they explored together, and he learned a lot about nature.
He made family life as normal as possible, and provided a structured
atmosphere, said Henry Jr.
For a short period in 1976, Sonja deVries Wallace decided to move the
family to Madrid. Naomi, Sonja, Henry and their father all followed.
But Henry Jr. said the family was not comfortable living in a city like
Madrid when they had been reared on a rural setting in Prospect. Soon
after, Henrys parents divorced.
In 1978, Wallace married Peggy Willett Weir. She died in 1990. His first
wife, Sonja deVries, still lives in Amsterdam.
Wallace had a real love for animals and people, said Leoni. Life was
simple for him, defined in terms of black and white, with no judgmental
views. He taught us to be good to one another. He practiced
what he preached by acting the same way toward everyone, Leoni said.
courtesy of Wallace-deVries family
Wallace feeds the birds while
walking on the beach in Puerto Morelos,
Mexico, during his March 2006 trip there.
He was an avid animal lover, as evidenced
by his Henrys Ark petting zoo on
the family farm in Prospect, Ky.
Im amazed at how many people he touched,
she said. In general, he taught us a real respect for all human
beings, said eldest daughter, Sonja. she organized the memorial
service for her father at Mastersons in Louisville. The program
attracted more than 300 people and consisted mainly of readings of Wallaces
numerous Letters to the Editor that he had penned to the
Louisville Times and Courier-Journal over the years. The event also
featured songs performed by Leoni and other family members, and a six-minute
film on his life that Sonja created.
Sonja, an independent filmmaker, has a long-term vision of producing
a one-hour documentary on her father. She said her family is very close,
even though sister Naomi lives in England and Leoni in Amsterdam. She
will seek input from her siblings, and the film will be like a
history of the different phases of my fathers life. Ive
never done a project this personal.
Even though Wallace felt a strong attachment to Cuba and its people,
Prospect was always his home, said Sonja. In February 2006,
Wallace visited Cuba one last time for four days.
It was a place he loved very much, said Sonja.
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