With only 24 hours’ notice, friends, family and fans of late Stanislaus County sheriff’s Deputy Dennis Wallace gathered Tuesday morning at the Hughson Sports and Fitness complex.
They were there to break ground on a memorial garden in honor of Wallace, who was killed in the line of duty in November. The garden will sit at the spot where Wallace, a longtime Hughson resident who spearheaded the league in that town, stood on Saturday mornings to greet players and their parents.
Plans call for a garden with a blue bench – the only one of that color in a park filled with green benches. It will be marked “Deputy Coach,” said Amanda Young, who has been spearheading the effort. “That’s what the kids called him, because nobody knew if they should call him ‘Deputy’ or ‘Coach.’ ”
The garden will include a flowerbed and concrete paving stones that people can buy to engrave with a saying or quote in Wallace’s honor. Those details are being worked out.
Tuesday’s dedication included reflections from Wallace’s widow, Mercedes, as well as his brother, Dave, a Modesto Police Department detective. Mercedes Wallace let the crowd in on a secret: Dennis didn’t really care for gardening. When they moved to their home in Hughson, they picked “the only one without a yard.” He finally bought and planted some flowers, Mercedes said, but they died right away.
Upon closer examination, she found, “He just dug holes and stuck the plants in there,” she said. “He didn’t pack any dirt in.”
There’s a simple explanation for that, Dave Wallace responded. “For us, gardening was punishment,” he said. If the Wallace brothers did something naughty, their father would present them with a shovel “at 4 o’clock in the morning.”
Work on the garden will take several weeks. A dedication ceremony is planned in September, when the soccer season opens, Young said.