Community loses asset — Bob Wall

Published 12:35 am Sunday, February 24, 2008

The community lost of one of it’s biggest assets on Saturday, February 16, with the passing of long-time resident Robert “Bob” Bernard Wall.

According to friends and family, Wall generously gave of his time and energies to every community in which he lived.

A native of Pennsylvania, Wall’s career began in 1956 in Ithaca, N.Y. with the U.S. Geological Survey. He did hydrologic field work as a certified engineering technician. His community activities in Ithaca revolved around his love for his church, Immaculate Conception. He was a catholic and became heavily involved in the Knights of Columbus. As one of the youngest Head Knights in the North East, Wall fostered the building of the new KC Hall. He was also very active with the boy scouts.

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Wall was 36 when he suffered his first massive heart attack. Although this hindered his ability to continue his field work, his strength of character and moral resolve shined in his abilities to survive a clinical trial for heart bypass surgery.

Although a very common practice today, heart bypass was a brand new procedure in 1968 when Wall received the surgery. “I remember them bringing us into a room and explaining the surgery. “We were told to very, very happy if he survived another five years,” said his daughter Patrice Curtin. The trial was being conducted out of the Cleveland Clinic, and Wall received his surgery in Sayre, Pa., by Dr. James Sewell.

Not only did Wall far exceed his five year time limit, but he went on to receive a second procedure, in a different location of his heart in 1986, proving Wall would not go down without a fight. He worked to protect his community in much the same way.

After his initial heart troubles, Wall was transferred to Denver to manage a data processing center. His managerial duties also included centers in St. Louis, Mo.; Atlanta, Ga. and Reston, Va. In 1979, he was transferred to Stennis Space Center in Mississippi and became manager of the mechanical and electronic repair and calibration operations to the Survey’s Hydrological Instrumentation. In 1984, he retired from the Survey.

Pearl River County was the beneficiary of Wall’s retirement “work”. As a gregarious, happy man, who loved to stay busy, Wall focused all of his energies into his community. He was very active on the board in Hide-A-Way Lake, where he chaired various committees. He worked very closely with Police Chief Jim Luke, as a member of the 9/11 commission. He was also instrumental in forming the Picayune Police Senior Patrol with his friend and neighbor Bob Geiger. For his role in the Picayune Senior Patrol, Wall was recognized by the National Police Hall of Fame out of Florida.

Perhaps, his most important achievements involved his work with the Carriere Volunteer Fire Department.

Following some unfortunate incidents in 1993, the structure as well as the reputation of Carriere Fire Station One, was destroyed. Shortly after these incidents, Wall was drafted into service by the Fire Department.

Wall dedicated 15 years to the Carriere Volunteer Fire Department. Previous to his involvement, the firehouse did not have the capabilities to save a structure. “They were sarcastically known as “slab washers” that would show up to hose down the mess left on the concrete by a fire,” said Curtin. Mutual aid agreements that Wall was instrumental in developing changed this reputation, and now the firehouse has the capability to save a structure. These mutual aid agreements eventually helped Carriere to earn the first ever class nine and later class eight ratings in Pearl River County. “What that means to you,” Curtin said, “is that your insurance rates went down.”

Wall also worked with Ben Usinger of Henleyfield as a board member of the PRC Firefighters Assoc. to change the disbursement of tax funds by the county, allowing the different Fire Departments to better define and implement their budgets.

The fire department will honor Wall’s memory by renaming the Carriere Volunteer Fire Department, Carriere Fire Station One, the Robert B. Wall Station, and Carriere Engine One, will be dedicated to his memory. Engine One was also used to transport Wall’s remains from McDonald Funeral Home to the New Palestine Cemetery on Saturday. All other neighboring fire stations sent a truck to follow the procession to honor Wall’s achievements.

A fighter till the end, Wall had just received his five year clearance from Lung Cancer, when he was diagnosed with Colon Cancer which had spread to his liver. It was a total of six weeks from the time he was diagnosed till his death. Most of that time was spent in both Highland Community Hospital in Picayune or Northshore Hospital in Slidell, La. “He got to where he started calling all of the doctors ‘ologists’”, said Curtin. Keeping up his sense of humor, according to his daughter, Wall joked, “Aren’t there ‘just doctors’ anymore?””

Nine short days after Wall left the hospital he passed away in his home. Wall was 78. He is survived by his wife of nearly 54 years, Regina Wall of Carriere; his three children, Patrice Curtin and her husband, Geoffrey T. Curtin of New Orleans, La., Matthew T. Wall of Elko, Nev., and Ellen Novack and her husband, Michael Novack of Fenton, Mo,; one brother, Joseph E. Wall and his wife Elizabeth of Wappingers Falls, N.Y.; one granddaughter, Heather Yvonne Wall of Fort Worth, Texas and many nieces and nephews.

The family would like to thank Odyssey Hospice of Gulfport for their assistance, and all of the Wall’s friends who contributed to his Eulogy and Obituary.

“I know this sounds weird at this time,” said his daughter Patrice Curtin, “but I feel like the luckiest girl alive — this was my dad, this was MY dad.”