Long­time ‘Voice of Oak­lawn’ dies at 74

The Sentinel-Record - - FRONT PAGE - FROM STAFF RE­PORTS

Terry Wal­lace, Oak­lawn Park’s track an­nouncer for 37 years, died Thurs­day fol­low­ing a lengthy ill­ness, Oak­lawn of­fi­cials said.

Wal­lace, 74, known as “The Voice of Oak­lawn” for decades, be­gan call­ing races at the Hot Springs track in 1975 and called a record 20,191 con­sec­u­tive races be­fore end­ing his streak Jan. 28, 2011, Oak­lawn said in a news re­lease.

He stepped down as an­nouncer fol­low­ing the 2011 sea­son, but re­mained a pop­u­lar am­bas­sador for the track, in­clud­ing his time as a hand­i­cap­per for The Sen­tinel-Record, un­til his re­tire­ment in 2017.

“Terry was one of the le­gends of Oak­lawn,” Se­nior Vice Pres­i­dent Eric Jack­son said in the re­lease. “For gen­er­a­tions of Arkansas racing fans, he was the voice of Oak­lawn and for a time he was the most rec­og­nized voice in the state. It’s a very sad day for the Oak­lawn fam­ily as we have lost an im­por­tant part of our his­tory.”

Oak­lawn Pres­i­dent Lou Cella said he grew up lis­ten­ing to Terry Wal­lace’s calls of the Oak­lawn races.

“He had so many clas­sic calls,” Cella said. “And he had a way of mak­ing even a mun­dane race seem in­cred­i­bly ex­cit­ing.”

Cella noted that it was ex­actly one year ago that Oak­lawn lost his fa­ther and long­time Oak­lawn pres­i­dent, Charles Cella.

Orig­i­nally from Cincin­nati, Wal­lace held a lan­guage de­gree from Xavier Univer­sity and even spent a year at the Sor­bonne in Paris be­fore putting those lan­guage skills to work in racing as an an­nouncer ini­tially at River Downs in his home­town as well as Great Bar­ring­ton, Louisiana Downs, Ak-Sar-Ben and Horse­men’s Park. His work at the lat­ter two tracks brought him in­duc­tion in the Ne­braska Racing Hall of Fame. He was in­ducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame in 2012, the re­lease said.

Oak­lawn Park had sub­mit­ted an ap­pli­ca­tion with the “Guin­ness Book of World Records” be­cause it be­lieved that Wal­lace’s con­sec­u­tive 20,191 calls was a world record. Wal­lace hit the 20,000th race call mile­stone

with his call of the third race March 25, 2010. He sub­se­quently re­ceived let­ters of con­grat­u­la­tions from for­mer Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton and then-Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe. The mayor of Hot Springs pro­claimed “Terry Wal­lace Day” in the com­mu­nity, the re­lease said.

Wal­lace re­ceived the Mr. Fritz Award from the Na­tional Turf Writ­ers and Broad­cast­ers As­so­ci­a­tion in 2011 for typ­i­fy­ing the spirit of racing.

“Terry just had a larger than life per­son­al­ity,” Di­rec­tor of Mar­ket­ing Kim Baron said in the re­lease. “Even be­fore I started work­ing at Oak­lawn, he was a su­per­star around town. He was just so pop­u­lar. He’s go­ing (to) be greatly missed.”

“Terry wasn’t just the voice of Oak­lawn for gen­er­a­tions of Arkansas racing fans — he was also the heart and soul,” said Di­rec­tor of Oak­lawn Any­where David Longinotti, who first worked with Terry as a re­porter with The Sen­tinel-Record in the early 1980s. “His pas­sion for the sport was truly con­ta­gious. He also put that pas­sion into be­ing a civic-minded mem­ber of the Hot Springs com­mu­nity.”

Wal­lace was also ac­tive in the fight against cancer. He served on the boards of sev­eral lo­cal char­i­ties, in­clud­ing the Gar­land County chap­ter of the Amer­i­can Cancer So­ci­ety Lead­er­ship Coun­cil and his ef­forts have helped raise nearly $3 mil­lion to fight the dis­ease. He also worked dili­gently with the United Way and that or­ga­ni­za­tion rec­og­nized him last De­cem­ber with a spe­cial trib­ute for his years of ser­vice to the com­mu­nity. In the com­ing years, the United Way will be­stow the Terry Wal­lace Vol­un­teer Award to the per­son who goes above and be­yond much the same way that Terry had, the re­lease said.

Wal­lace is sur­vived by his wife, Alice, two sons, one daugh­ter and four grand­chil­dren.

The Sen­tinel-Record/File photo

‘VOICE OF OAK­LAWN’: Terry Wal­lace, long­time track an­nouncer for Oak­lawn Park, in a file photo from 2014 when he was named by The Sen­tinel-Record as a Gold Stan­dard Honoree, which rec­og­nized in­flu­en­tial lead­ers in the com­mu­nity. Wal­lace died Thurs­day, of­fi­cials said.

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