Royal Wallace Rice Sr., a former resident of Three Rivers died Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014. He was 91.
Wally was born to Royal M. Rice and Zora Bingham Rice on July 25, 1923, in a log cabin, where Lake Kaweah is now. The Rices made their home on part of the 1,100-acre ranch owned by Wally’s grandfather J.W.B. Rice, who settled there in 1886.
Wally claimed family ties to the Mehrtens, McKees, and Packards. He considered himself a mountain boy, born with a fishing pole in one hand, a .22 rifle in the other, and his beloved harmonica tucked in his shirt pocket.
Wally would add the money he earned from trapping gophers — a whopping three cents a tail — to the family cookie jar to help ends meet. During the Depression years, the Rices had a difficult time feeding their family.
“We didn’t know how poor we were because we had the love of each other, and our family took care of one another,” Wally would say.
Wally attended elementary school in Lemon Cove and graduated from Exeter High School. His nickname was “Windy” for his gift of storytelling.
The death of Wally’s father in 1937, when Wally was 14 years old, made a profound impact on his life. His grandfather Bingham told him he was now the man of the house, which he took to heart.
After graduating high school, Wally attended Visalia Junior College (present-day College of the Sequoias), but was soon called to serve in World War II. Wally received two Purple Hearts, two Bronze Star Medals, and various other commendations.
After his discharge, Wally went to work for the State of California’s Division of Highways as an equipment operator. He worked throughout California for 35 years and, in 1979, retired from Cal Trans as a senior superintendent.
On April 18, 1948, Wally married Margaret (Barbee) Corry. After nearly 41 years of marriage, Margaret passed away in 1989.
On February 3, 1990, Wally married Beverly Cassaday in Visalia. A few years later, Wally and Beverly built a home in Three Rivers, where they lived for seven years. They enjoyed golfing, playing card games and, most of all, taking RV trips throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Wally was a member of Three Rivers Lions Club, serving as president in 1996-1997. He was also a member of First Baptist Church of Three Rivers, then, after moving to Visalia, the Gateway Church.
In addition to his parents and first wife Margaret, Wally was preceded in death by one brother Walter Rice and, in September 2014, his son, Royal Wallace Rice Jr. (Roy).
Wally is survived by his wife of 24 years, Beverly; daughter Carrol Ann and husband Kenneth Schmidt; daughter Janice and husband Robert Elayer; twin sons Leland Rice and Leslie Rice; Beverly’s two children, son Kit Cassaday and daughter Kathleen and husband John Whitaker; daughter-in-law Joyce Rice; his many grandchildren and great-grandchildren; two sisters, Eunice Small and Darlene Rodgers; one brother, Wilburn Rice; and sister-in-law, Jean Rice.
Services were held Wednesday, Dec. 17, followed by a private burial service.