John Richard Wallace

November 9, 1955August 3, 2020
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John Richard Wallace, age 64, of Dayton, Ohio, passed away in his sleep the morning of August 3, 2020. John was born November 9, 1955, to Lillian (nee Walls) and Roy Wallace in Royal Oak, Michigan. He is preceded in death by his father, Roy. John is survived by his wife, Mary Sue Gmeiner, daughters Laura Knowles Wallace (Becca Taute) and Grace Knowles Wallace, mother Lillian Wallace, sister Carol Wallace and brother Jim (Carol) Wallace, former wife Robin Knowles Wallace, a large and loving family of nieces, nephews, great nieces and nephews, cousins, and Mary Sue’s daughters Beth (Andy Lane) Livensperger and Carolyn (Joe Ceradini) Livensperger. John loved his family deeply, and was deeply loved in return.

John was a lifelong learner, both in and out of school. He earned a BA and PhD in Philosophy from Michigan State University, and an M.Div. from the Candler School of Theology at Emory University. Called early in life to the ministry, he served many United Methodist Church congregations throughout Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ohio before retiring in 2018. His ministry was a reflection of his life. He offered his heart to any community he was a part of, and called forth the best in everyone.

John enthusiastically engaged his students in philosophy as an adjunct instructor at Ohio Dominican University. He shared his passion for mission, for incorporating social justice in ministry, through the Course of Study School of Ohio, and at Methodist Theological School in Ohio.

John worked and protested for all kinds of justice: racial justice, economic equality, reproductive justice, rights and dignity for immigrants and LGBTQ people, world peace. From an internship at the King Center while in seminary, to time spent in Costa Rica to learn about liberation theology, to traveling to Nicaragua with Pastors for Peace, John brought his spiritual lens to the pressing problems of the day.

John brought that same passion to sports (he loved the Tigers and Spartans) and was loyal to the state of Michigan. John had a great sense of humor. He didn’t know a stranger, and everyone felt comfortable around John. He maintained loving connections with people - coffee, email, Zoom calls with cousins. He belonged to so many communities over the years and touched so many people's lives. He lived out the vision of the beloved community.

Celebration of Life for John Wallace Live via Zoom: Aug 8, 2020 2:00 PM Eastern Time Web Address: Meeting ID: 862 5712 1260

Contact for questions or support in attending the live Zoom service.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Methodist Federation for Social Action, Fund for Immigration Legal Assistance, Ohio Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, or Democratic Socialists of America.


No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.


John Richard Wallace

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August 24, 2020

I was saddened to learn of John's death. He worked with me teaching IAH at Michigan State University and was instrumental in helping me develop and award-winning hybrid class. I have a particular memory of John bringing the social philosophy of George Herbert Mead to help students analyze George Bernard Shaw's "Pygmalion." It was a brilliant contribution offering a way for students to apply philosophy to the study of literature and culture. He was kind, thoughtful, generous, and a delight to work with. He will be missed. You have my deepest condolences. I hope this helps to know that his life touched mine and made it better. Attached is a photo of the award that belongs to John (and the others who worked on it) as much as to me. SR

Ethel Johnson

August 15, 2020

When I think of John I smile for he was so interested in social justice issues and always willing to serve. I have many memories of us struggling to right a wrong. Well done good and faithful servant. You touched many lives ,including mine with your jest for justice. I am blessed to have had you as a vital part of my life

Sabrina Jordan

August 13, 2020

I remember the first time I met John, he had this aura about him that made feel comfortable around him. John and Mary Sue have drove me to events with them, and he would just laugh at my crazy conversations. I especially loved the way he made Mary Sue face light up with happiness. John you will be truly missed, and in your honor I will keep my eyes on Mary Sue to make sure she is doing well. You are truly missed.

Ruth Scott

August 11, 2020

Mary Sue, more than a year ago, we met you and John at Burger King in Westerville. That was the first time and only time we saw you. John had been our pastor at Church of the Saviour . John introduced us to you and told us you two were going to be married. We enjoyed knowing John while he was at our church. He was so personable and a good minister. He will be missed. May God be with all of you during this difficult time.

With deepest sympathy,

Ruth and Chuck Scott

William "Bill" Ross

August 11, 2020

I met John as he drove a Hispanic man and myself up to Cleveland and back for an immigration court appointment not long ago. It was an enjoyable experience getting to know John along the way. We talked about many things easily, he shared how happy he was with Mary Sue, and I was glad to meet this man who was intent on helping others. I appreciated seeing him later on numerous occasions as he helped with delivering food and supplies to others in need during this pandemic, and he always had a cheery hello. Seeing all the pictures posted here allows me to understand more deeply what a successful life John lived, and how much he will be missed.

Susan Nunn

August 10, 2020

I didn't know John very long, but he deeply impacted me by his openness, graciousness and love of his family and friends. His smile and kindness are carried in my heart and by his loved ones. Love and condolences to family, friends and especially to Mary Sue.

Mike Smalz Smalz

August 9, 2020

John was a wonderful, kind, caring and generous person. john was also passionately committed to fighting for social justice. I worked with him for many years in Columbus Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and the Central Ohio Worker Center. He could always be counted on to volunteer for or take on essential tasks that others found either too challenging or too unexciting (or both). He was a gentle and compassionate soul and always sensitive to human suffering. .But he could vigorously discuss and debate a wide range of subjects, from Christian theology to democratic socialism to Frankfurt School post-Marxist theory. John will be greatly missed by me, my wife Jane, and all who knew him.

Kathleen Hamilton

August 8, 2020

Mary Sue the service today at St. Paul UMC was perfect just as your wedding there was. My condolences to you, and family, and friends of both. Your happiness together was infectious and always brings a smile to my face when I see a photo or a memory pops up. My heart goes out to you and as soon as it is safe to travel from South Carolina I will come up to see you. With all my love.

Deborah Gifford

August 8, 2020

I had the pleasure of working for Pastor John when he was at our church, Church of the Saviour UMC, in Westerville. John was always smiling, and was very involved in many local outreach programs sponsored by our the Side-By-Side group and Harlem Township Helping Hands. He helped with Homework Help at Westerville Estates, with our local Back-to-School clothing and school supply giveaway and Christmas food and Gift giveaway held at our church, and was always there for those who needed him. I'm sure he will be missed by everyone who knew him. May he rest in peace. Deb Gifford

Marlon Shackelford

August 8, 2020

Rev. Wallace once said to me "Keep doing what you believe God's telling you to do". I never forgot that. RIH Good and faithful servent.


Siblings: Jim, John, and Carol


December 1955: Grandma Jennie holds John as the Wallace side of the family gathers (Jennie, Jon, Lillian, Grandpa Elmer, Uncle Fred, Jim, Uncle Joe)


Jun 1956


Lillian and John on his first birthday


Roy, Jim, and Carol with John on his first birthday


Lillian with John and cousin Joan Wallace


the siblings in 1957

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