Uriel Wallace III, reading specialist in city schools

Uriel H. Wallace III
Uriel H. Wallace III
Posted: July 12, 2013

Uriel H. Wallace III, 59, of West Philadelphia, a former reading specialist in the city's public schools, died Thursday, July 4, of prostate cancer at the Watermark assisted-living on Logan Square.

Before retiring in the early 1990s, Mr. Wallace worked for the School District for more than 20 years as a reading specialist.

He spent time at the Middle Years Alternative School, the Beeber Wynnefield Alternative Program at Beeber Junior High School, and George C. Thomas Middle School.

He also taught at the Barrett Annex at Frank Palumbo Elementary School, now the Academy at Palumbo. He specialized in getting students into select high schools.

Also an accomplished composer and musician, he wrote the school song for the new Academy at Palumbo, where his sister Adrienne Chew is high school principal.

Mr. Wallace was especially proud of two other songs he composed in recent years: Nobody Can Stop This Party - meaning the annual Fourth of July celebration - and the Musical Pledge of Allegiance, which honors all who serve in the armed forces.

He was born on New Year's Day, the first child of Uriel H. Wallace Jr. and Cynthia Comer Wallace, two Philadelphia teachers. He was nicknamed "Tersh," from the Latin for "third."

He attended the Lea School and Overbrook High School, where he graduated in 1971. He participated in the magnet music program as well as on the varsity swim team. He received his bachelor's and master's degrees from St. Joseph's University.

In the late 1970s, he played the keyboard for the reggae band House of Assembly. The Philadelphia-based group made regular weekend appearances at Grendel's Lair on South Street, opened at Penn's Landing for Bob Marley, and shared a bill with Dick Gregory at the Band Box Theatre.

After a Florida tour, Mr. Wallace traded life on the road for full-time teaching in Philadelphia.

He was well-loved by his students, and also by inner-city children who spent part of their summers at Camp William Penn in East Stroudsburg, Pa. There, Mr. Wallace rose to unit leader, supervising counselors and campers, during his college years.

Once he began teaching, he spent a decade working summers as a head lifeguard for the Department of Recreation. He coached swim teams at the Ford and Ridgeway Pools.

On retiring from teaching, Mr. Wallace divided his time between working as an independent building repair contractor, and as a composer and musician. He also became caretaker and cook for ill relatives, including two uncles, an aunt, and his parents.

He enjoyed swimming at the University City Swim Club, and spent part of each summer on Martha's Vineyard.

Surviving, besides his parents and sister, are another sister, Barbara, and a nephew.

A viewing from 9 to 11 a.m. Friday, July 12, will be followed by a memorial service featuring his music at St. Simon the Cyrenian Church, 1401 S. 22d St. Burial with release of balloons will be at Woodlands Cemetery.

Donations may be made to a college fund he created for godson Alex Brown in care of StarSpirit International Inc., Box 42048, Philadelphia 19101.

Contact Bonnie L. Cook at 610-313-8102 or bcook@phillynews.com.

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