Wallace Reid, former Evening Sun copy editor

Wallace "Wally" Reid, a colorful former Evening Sun copy editor who was known as "The Chairman" and admired for his vast knowledge of the arcane and his observant witticisms, died Wednesday at the McCarthy Care Center in Sandwich, Mass., after suffering a fall at his daughter's home.

The former longtime Rodgers Forge resident was 94.

"Wally was just a sober, funny, witty influence on the desk," said Ernest F. Imhoff, a retired longtime Evening Sun and Baltimore Sun editor. "He was the kind of guy we came to love very much as a colleague. He steadied us."

"Wally was destined to life a life of constant inquiry," said a son, W. Bruce Reid, of Vicksburg, Miss., who was an Evening Sun reporter from 1989 to 1995.

The son of Abraham J. Reid, vice president of Cambria Equipment Co. and a radio executive in Johnstown, Pa., and Elizabeth Reid, a homemaker, Wallace Reid was born on his grandfather's farm in Twin Rocks, Pa., and raised in the Westmont neighborhood of Johnstown.

After graduating in 1941 from Westmont-Upper Yoder High School in Johnstown, Mr. Reid enlisted in the Army in 1942, serving as a radar technician with the 885th Signal Company. He was deployed to the China-Burma-India theater.

Mr. Reid wrote a 22-page account of his wartime experiences, "Hell's Gate: My Story of the Burma Road."

Mr. Reid's convoy was one of the first to traverse the 1,079-mile Ledo-Burma Road, then newly completed, from India to China with supplies for the Chinese who were fighting Japanese forces.

Oftentimes, his truck drove at the head of the convoy over the primitive treacherous road, according to his account.

"The convoy went up and down mountains, reached their highest altitude of 9,250 feet, the top of The Hump in China," Mr. Imhoff, who attended a 2008 lecture at the L'Hirondelle Club in Ruxton where Mr. Reid spoke of his World War II days, wrote in an email.

"They averaged 20 miles a day over the rough, unpaved ... road. Sometimes they slid sideways in the mud," Mr. Imhoff wrote. "The Japanese lurked nearby. Trucks broke down."

"Every man in our convoy came through safely, and only one truck was lost," Mr. Reid wrote. "As the Chinese said, everything was 'Ding How.' Very lucky."

"I worked with Wally Reid for many years on The Evening Sun but didn't know about his great adventure driving a truck on the Ledo-Burma Road," Mr. Imhoff wrote. "It is typical of his generation not to brag about their wartime experiences."

Discharged in 1946, Mr. Reid entered the University of Pittsburgh, where he earned a bachelor's degree in journalism.

He worked as a reporter for the old Tampa Times in Florida for two years before joining The Evening Sun copy desk in 1951.

While in Tampa, he was also a stringer for TV host and newspaper columnist Ed Sullivan and nationally syndicated columnist Drew Pearson.

"Wally worked the early slot for The Evening Sun, the most stressful position on the copy desk, and he handled it with aplomb, wit, and clouds of cigar smoke," Dave Cohn, who was copy desk chief from 1980 to 1995, wrote in an email.

As deadline approached with its attendant pressures, Mr. Reid dealt with it by gnawing the end of a cigar, his son said.

The late Carl Schoettler, an Evening Sun colleague, described Mr. Reid in 1995 as being a "repository of arcane knowledge."

"His pithy, often humorous remarks broke the deadline tension and earned him the title of Chairman — a la Chairman Mao," Mr. Cohn wrote. "He showed how to think clearly under pressure, correct with kindness, and avoid taking yourself too seriously, and I am grateful for his lessons."

Mr. Reid's more trenchant observations on life and current events were posted in the newsroom for all passersby to take in.

"They were called 'Quotes from The Chairman.' They were sarcastic, witty things that were typed on copy paper and posted," said his son.

Mr. Reid occasionally wrote feature articles for The Evening Sun, including one on how to build a stone patio.

"Expect to suffer a few backaches, aching shoulders and sore elbows from lifting rocks and laying stones, and using previously unknown muscles," he wrote. "The beauty of your work taking shape will ease the pain."

Mr. Reid had a fondness for bourbon and railroad flare-sized cigars, especially Optimo Palmas.

A stylish dresser, it was not uncommon for Mr. Reid to sport a tam-o'-shanter at a rakish angle during the winter months.

"Wally was proud of his Scottish heritage and was a spiffy dresser," Mr. Cohn said. "And he wouldn't buy anything on sale that wasn't under 50 percent."

A resident for 57 years of Stanmore Road in Rodgers Forge before moving to his daughter's home in Eastham, Mass., in 2013, Mr. Reid enjoyed restoring and refinishing antique furniture, and making miniature copies of antique furniture for dollhouses.

For 46 years until his death, he collected Gorham Silver Co. silver snowflake Christmas ornaments.

He was married for 50 years to the former Helen Thomas, librarian for 21 years at Rodgers Forge Elementary School, died in 2001.

Plans for a memorial service to be held later this year are incomplete.

In addition to his son, Mr. Reid is survived by another son, Michael C. Reid of Stevensville, Mont.; two daughters, Julie L. Reid of Aberdeen and Kerry R. Lothrop of Eastham, Mass.; and three grandchildren.

frasmussen@baltsun.com

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