Community pillar Wallin made difference in AlWood area

Doug Boock
Gene Wallin served the AlWood community for over 40 years before dying last week.

Whether for a medical emergency or – if death was not averted – Alpha and Woodhull residents knew for over 40 years where to turn to: Gene Wallin.

 “That’s who we went to when we needed some help,” said Jackie Nelson of Woodhull. “(He and wife Alice) made those times a lot easier for us.”

Wallin, who along with his wife formerly owned the Peterson-Wallin-Knox Funeral Homes in Alpha and Woodhull, died Sept. 23. He was 77.

A second-generation mortician, Wallin impacted his community for over four decades. He was someone local residents entrusted with their most prized possessions – their loved ones – and he served them well.

“They provided incredible service for years,” said Dave Morland of Galva, an Alpha native. During that time, the Wallins forged an “excellent” reputation in the community, Morland said.

“They were always professional people and served the community,” added Morland, a physician’s assistant at OSF Galva Clinic.

“(Gene) was such a caring person,” agreed Phyllis Johnson of rural Woodhull. “Every person he treated with dignity.”

For over 20 years, Mrs. Johnson worked at Peterson Wallin Knox Furniture Store in Woodhull, also owned and operated by the Wallins until it closed in 1994. During that time, she saw Gene Wallin’s community outreach up close.

“Almost his whole life he donated himself to the community. He took after his father,” she said. “He was just a special person. He did so much without the community even knowing it.”

Wallin, who is survived by his wife, three daughters – Teresa Wallin, Jane Cashion and Lynne Hines – two grandsons, and other relatives, was a U.S. Air Force veteran. He served as a radio operator in the Korean War, stationed in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Besides meeting residents’ funeral needs, one of Wallin’s greatest impacts was his work in helping organize the Tri County Ambulance Service. That joint effort continues decades later to greatly serve residents of Clover and Oxford townships in Henry County, and Rivoli Township in Mercer County and Rio Fire District in Knox County.

“That was a milestone in this community,” Alpha Mayor Marvin Watters said Sept. 26. “When you think about that – to get four taxing bodies from three different counties to go together to service the communities . . . It was new and innovative at that time. That is something he will be remembered for.”

As Henry County Deputy Coroner for over 40 years, Wallin was called out at all hours of the night to determine a person’s passing. He always did so with true professionalism, according to Sid Carlson, an EMT with Tri County Ambulance Service for over 25 years.

“In a few minutes, there’d come Gene – dressed in a suit, white shirt and tie . . . every time,” said Carlson, of rural Rio.

Wallin’s passing leaves a void in the community, Carlson added.

“If ever there was a pillar of the community, it was Gene Wallin,” he explained. “Everybody thought Gene was a good guy. I don’t think he had an enemy in the world.

“He will certainly be missed.”