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happy 90th birthday grandpa wallace

my grandpa wallace turned 90 years old last friday.
the picture above is when he opened my present of asheville bear poop.
on saturday 18 of his family members spanning 4 generations gathered to celebrate at noon in the card room of the palm beach condo highrise where he has lived for the past 50 years.
he made his grand entrance fashionably late using ski poles as canes and playing ‘happy birthday’ on his harmonica.
he grew up in providence, rhode island, as one of 5 boys raised by a single mother whose father abandoned the family when the youngest was 1. he was in the air force during world war 2, and then had 3 kids (including my dad), and spent his life drawing and doing architectural delineation, which he continued to do until very recently when his eyes and hands stopped cooperating. he worked very hard, and very well.
he has a great sense of humor, and great love for his wife margaret, who was so classy and chic that we grew up calling her ‘lady margaret.’ he is a very snazzy dresser – palm beach resort style – wearing white pants and white keds every time i’ve seen him in the past 35 years.
grandpa wallace & lady margaret
we spent a lot of the party looking at amazing old photos and newspaper clippings. his younger brother john brought a picture from the providence journal of his senior prom.  lady margaret was cool with it.
lady margaret checks her out
one of the most touching parts of the day was when he played a few songs on harmonica for my nephew willie. willie was entranced. he would finish one song and willie would say, “more!” 
grandpa wallace plays harmonica for willie 
what a life! 90 years – can you freakin imagine?
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Palm Beach resident (AKA Grandpa Wallace) to see Memorial Day through his brother’s eyes

I don’t know if my Grandpa Wallace got a new PR agent or what, but he’s been in the Palm Beach news three times in the past year. The most recent was on Memorial Day, with the following article about his brother Robert McTammany who died during World War II:

Palm Beach Resident to see Memorial Day through his Brother’s Eyes
(via Palm Beach Daily News)

By John Nelander

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Robert McTammany was one of 12,000 American soldiers forced by the Japanese during World War II to march under brutal conditions to a prisoner of war camp in the Philippines. Miraculously, he survived 61 miles of starvation, beatings and random executions only to die of malaria after he reached his destination.

His four brothers — including Wallace McTammany of Palm Beach — didn’t learn of Robert’s death until years later in 1945. But the family, originally from Providence, R.I., never forgot, and Wallace doggedly pursued official recognition of his brother’s heroic deeds.

His efforts were rewarded earlier this year when an array of medals honoring Robert were delivered to Wallace’s home. They include a Purple Heart, a World War II Victory Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, a bronze Prisoner of War Medal and an Honorable Service Lapel Button.

It will make this Memorial Day — almost exactly 70 years since Robert enlisted in the Army — a little more special.

Robert joined the Army in September 1940, and left for the Philippines as a sergeant on Oct. 6, 1941, two months before the attack on Pearl Harbor. He became embroiled in the historic Battle of the Philippines after the Japanese invaded the island chain just before Christmas.

Fighting raged in January through April 1942, with the American troops under the command of Gen. Douglas MacArthur defending the strategic island of Corregidor and the Bataan Peninsula.

It ended with the surrender of American and Filipino troops on April 9. Ten thousand Allied troops died and 20,000 were wounded — and 75,000 (including 12,000 Americans) were taken prisoner. They were forced to walk the 61 miles to a prisoner of war camp, a journey that became known as the Bataan Death March.

It was marked by beatings, casual shootings, starvation and even beheadings. Still, Robert somehow made it to Camp O’Donnell, a temporary holding facility for American soldiers before they were sent on to other Japanese-held camps.

Wallace keeps a copy of a newspaper clipping from 1945 that announced Robert’s death at the age of 30 — he was counted as missing for three years. He also keeps an unnamed and unmarked copy of a book describing the camp in which his brother spent his final month.

“The sanitation was so appallingly bad, the stench so overwhelming, that the few Japanese who ventured inside the camp almost invariably wore surgical masks,” the author says.

There was one place in camp to house the critically ill, which the soldiers came to call St. Peter’s Ward because they believed there was no chance of survival. Patients died of malaria, dysentery, acute dehydration and starvation.

Wallace says simply: “It was a horror show.”

Robert was buried in Manila, in a cemetery for American soldiers. The McTammany family chose not to have his remains moved back to the United States.

Fast forward to 2009. Wallace had been taking morning walks with another World War II veteran, Martin Davidson, a retired Marine major who fought in Iwo Jima. They began chatting about McTammany’s brother Robert.

“I’d been reading in a military magazine that the government had opened up new opportunities for getting Purple Hearts,” Davidson recalls. “So I told him about it. It’s a good thing, no matter when and how it was received. It puts the government in a good light, which doesn’t happen very often.”

Of the Bataan Death March, Davidson adds: “It’s hard to imagine what these guys went through.”

Four of five McTammany brothers, including Wallace, entered the military. They served in various capacities and locations — Wallace in the Bahamas, the Caribbean and West Palm Beach. “I just lucked out,” he says.

Wallace went on to a career doing architectural renderings. Robert never had the chance to pursue his career as a classical musician. Before enlisting, he had played string bass in the Providence and Boston symphony orchestras.

“All five of us boys were industrious,” Wallace says. “Bob had a lot of different jobs, but he loved music. He was different from the rest of us.

“He would sit in a corner in a rocking chair when he was home, and listen to this huge Stromberg-Carlson radio. He’d just be carried away.”

And now his memory lives on in the hearts and minds of his family, the collection of medals and honors Wallace proudly displays in his home office, and within the flag he flies each Memorial Day on the balcony of his condo on South Ocean Boulevard.

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i think it’s dashing

There’s a fantastic article in yesterday’s Palm Beach Daily News about my Grandpa Wallace. (photo by Joyce McTammany, Warwick, RI, 1984)

Architectural delineator Wallace McTammany has made a career out of being very deliberate

Special to the Daily News
Monday, December 14, 2009

Daily News Photo by Jeffrey Langlois
Wallace McTammany shows some of his architectural renderings. ‘I was always interested in drawing. I had a lifetime of it.’

Perhaps the most prominent landmark on the West Palm Beach skyline is the Northbridge Centre on Olive Avenue. The building, which rises tall, sleek and black into the warm, azure sky, is better known by its local nickname: “The Darth Vader Building.”

Here’s an interesting factoid about it: The first person ever to see it — to admire its jutting, quirky coolness towering over the South Florida coast — was Wallace McTammany. It came out of his head.

He worked slowly and methodically to create a picture of it from an architect’s plans. When he was finished, McTammany looked at the building and said: “This is it. This is what it will look like.”

And he was right. The Northbridge Centre is one of the 3,512 projects he has brought to life as an architectural delineator over his career, which has spanned seven decades.

“I don’t think anybody has made as many perspective drawings as I did,” he says. Of the Northbridge Centre he adds: “It’s a landmark. For a modern building, I think it’s dashing.”

McTammany and his wife, Margaret, have lived in the Patrician condominium in Palm Beach since shortly after it was built in 1969. Until this year, they spent summers at a home in the North Carolina mountains.

McTammany’s home office is decked out top to bottom with memorabilia from his long and colorful career, highlighted by some of his most striking renderings. He has a framed 1960 letter on the wall from the governor of Rhode Island, congratulating him on his rendering of the Providence post office, which was made into a commemorative stamp.

On another wall there are photographs of his 1951 Jaguar, a classic car he drove to parties in Newport when he lived nearby. That was a sprawling home he designed on 10 acres — the structure was based on a 1698 house in Massachusetts.

“I tell you,” he says, nodding in the direction of the framed Jaguar photographs. “That was really a flashy car.”

He’s put together a booklet featuring some of his favorite renderings. An accompanying list of project sites goes on and on, from St. Augustine to Immokalee to Key West. In the United States, from Maine to Kentucky to Colorado. Worldwide, from Acapulco to Paris to the United Arab Emirates.

Architect Eugene Lawrence, founder of the Lawrence Group, has been working with McTammany since the mid-1960s. He says the business now uses a lot more computer-generated images, but they still can’t match the detail and quality offered by McTammany’s brand of hand work.

“To this day, some of the better delineations are done by hand,” Lawrence says. “They have to give people a 3-D look at what something is going to look like, whether it’s for a homeowner or a potential investor. That’s why it’s so important for them to be accurate.

“Wallace has always been very deliberate. When you got a Wallace McTammany delineation, you knew what your building was going to look like.”

Drawing and painting

McTammany has been doing renderings in Palm Beach for more than half a century, from private homes to hotels to fire stations. He began in 1944 when the Allies were still fighting their way through France. He was in the Army stationed in West Palm Beach with an office on Clematis Street.

His personal story, though, begins in 1921 when he was born in Providence, one of a family of five boys. His father was an architect but left the family when McTammany was 4. His mother managed to keep things together while nurturing her children’s varied talents.

“I was always interested in drawing,” McTammany says. “I had a lifetime of it. At our home in Providence we had a blackboard in the kitchen. Half the blackboard was my mother’s notes — what to buy at the store. The other half was my drawings, in chalk.”

McTammany always preferred to work in charcoal and pencil. “It’s softer, I think.” But one day his mother brought him a set of oil paints, and he recalls: “I wouldn’t go to bed. I stayed up all night doing all sorts of things, just fooling around. I painted a guy in a Mexican sombrero, someone else skiing.”

His favorite oil painting hangs on the wall of his dining room — a picture he made of Margaret. “He did it when I was 60,” Margaret says. “But when he did it, he made me look younger.”

War and paradise

McTammany wanted to be a pilot in the war, but couldn’t because of an eye problem. So, he decided to be an airplane mechanic. He arrived at Morrison Field, the military forerunner of Palm Beach International Airport, in 1942.

“I immediately got out of my heavy clothing and into a light khaki uniform. Then they said, ‘We’re going to send you overseas,'” he says. But overseas turned out to be Nassau, and he spent a year living in the classic British Colonial Hotel.

McTammany got married — to his first wife — and lived in an apartment on Worth Avenue toward the end of the war. He eventually designed and built a home in the south end of West Palm Beach.

As the war ended, South Florida remained and undeveloped paradise, its potential untapped. “I used to take my children out to Military Trail so they could listen to the frogs at night. The only other way for them to keep cool was for them to lie on the terrazzo floor.”

Love of the classics

Through it all, McTammany has always worked at home. He says he’d still be working now if it weren’t for the economy — projects have been canceled or put on hold.

One such project is a hotel in North Carolina, for which he recently finished a strikingly detailed charcoal and pencil rendering. Color would have come next, had the project not been shelved.

Of course, the truth is that McTammany never really liked working in watercolor anyway. Clients began demanding it, so he complied. But even the color work is completed with astonishing detail. He has spent his life, he says, working under a magnifying glass.

“I love the classics,” McTammany says, paging through his booklet. “I love the refinement and scale, the artistic stuff. Like this house in Beaver Creek, Colorado,” he adds, pointing to a mountainside mansion on the front cover. It’s a single-family residence with 10 bedrooms.

“I thought it was just so neat,” he says. “If you look very closely, in the doorway you can see a tiny 6-foot man.”

Wallace McTammany

Occupation: Architectural delineator.

Favorite quote: ‘See what you’re looking at.’ — A principle developed by McTammany.

Most admired person: New York architect Seth Harrison Gurnee, who was involved in the design of the Tennessee Valley Authority.

Favorite movie: ‘Summer Lease,’ a 1989 UK film about an English family who rents a villa in Tuscany for the summer.

Photo courtesy of Wallace McTammany
Wallace McTammany with his 1951 Jaguar Mark V drophead coupe.