Wylie Walker Vale, Sr. passed away peacefully on Thursday, January 24, 2013 at the age of 96. He was born in Marceline, Missouri on July 22, 1916, to parents Ada Belle and George Walker Vale. After spending most of his youth in St. Louis, Wylie and his family moved to Houston, Texas when he was in the 10th grade and he graduated from San Jacinto High School in 1934. He entered The Rice Institute (now Rice University) in the fall of 1934 and was awarded a Bachelor of Science in Architecture degree in June 1939. On the 29th of that month, he married Alliene Crittenden Guinn, a Houston beauty and fellow Rice graduate who had been his sweetheart since his sophomore year in high school and who remained the apple of his eye throughout the 71 years of their remarkable marriage.
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Wylie began his architectural career working in the offices of leading Houston architects of the day. In 1941, Alliene and Wylie moved into a new home Wylie designed on Bunker Hill Road and welcomed their first child, Wylie Walker Vale, Jr. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Wylie enlisted in the U.S. Navy and was sent to officer training at the U.S. Naval Reserve's Midshipmen's School at the University of Notre Dame, graduating 10th in his class of 400 and emerging as an Ensign in May 1943. After finishing at the top of his class in Torpedo School, he was assigned to be the new Torpedo Officer of the destroyer U.S.S. Farragut. While stationed on the Farragut, Wylie saw action in numerous South Pacific battles, including Tarawa, Kwajalein and Eniwetok. The Farragut was often deployed in the defensive screens protecting vital aircraft carriers and battleships and in support of amphibious landing operations. Wylie told riveting stories describing the overwhelming experience of being on a small vessel guarding the U.S.S. Missouri when the battleship's gigantic 16-inch guns unleashed barrages over their heads to soften up enemy defenses on nearby beaches. Although these wartime battles took a toll on his hearing in his later years, Wylie was always proud of his service on one of the so-called "expendable" destroyers that defended some of the Navy's most important ships. In 1944, Wylie was promoted to Lieutenant (Junior Grade) and was transferred to the light cruiser U.S.S. Trenton, where he saw action until the end of the war in Alaska's Aleutian Islands and in offensive operations against Japanese positions and shipping in the Kuril Islands of northern Japan.
After World War II ended, Wylie returned to Houston to establish his architectural practice in earnest. Wylie was one of the organizers of Piney Point Village and he and Alliene lived in three homes of his design during their sixty years in the Memorial area. In 1955, they welcomed their second son, Shannon Timothy Vale, into their warm, spacious home on Memorial Drive, which is now considered a classic of mid-century Texas residential architecture and has been lovingly restored by the home's current owners. By then, Wylie was leading his own firm (Wylie W. Vale & Associates) and had become one of the most prominent architects in Texas, designing stunning homes for many of the state's legendary oilmen and captains of industry. Wylie worked in a variety of residential styles, but he was perhaps best known for a unique aesthetic approach he called "Contemporary Country," which blended the influences of Frank Lloyd Wright with the Southwest's indigenous ranch house form and featured native materials and a high degree of craftsmanship and detail. His residential work was featured in Architectural Digest, Fortune Magazine and many other publications. Over the course of his career, he designed over 400 homes, many of which survive and are highly prized today, and he had a significant impact upon the look and flavor of several of Houston's most gracious neighborhoods, particularly River Oaks, Memorial and Tanglewood. Alliene became a highly respected interior designer in her own right during the 1950s, and for the next three decades the couple's unique collaborative method produced sensational yet highly livable homes for their clients. Wylie also designed more than 100 schools for over 30 school districts throughout the state, almost 50 churches, and many other major commercial, collegiate, and institutional projects around the country. In the 1960s, Wylie, George Rustay and Foy Martin formed Rustay, Martin & Vale, which at the time was one of the largest architectural firms in Texas and was responsible for notable projects such as the St. Luke's Children's Hospital tower and courthouses in Bay City and Richmond, Texas. Wylie designed his last house when he was 86 years old - a gorgeous Hill Country masterpiece in Hunt, Texas.
Aside from being a masterful architect, Wylie was a gifted writer. He won the grand prize and a trip to Niagara Falls in a national essay contest when he was 12 years old. As a freshman at Rice, he won the prestigious Lady Geddes Prize for the best essay by a freshman or sophomore, and was thrilled when his youngest grandson Matthew Vale won that same prize more than 75 years later. He published a book in 1988 regarding his studies of Biblical passages concerning the heart, and diligently and eloquently wrote in his journal almost every day until the last two months of his life.
Alliene and Wylie's lives changed profoundly when they committed their lives to Jesus Christ in 1960. Wylie's architectural skills benefitted numerous Christian and charitable organizations over the ensuing decades, and he contributed his leadership abilities to the boards of several organizations, including the Star of Hope Mission, Campus Crusade for Christ, Teen Challenge, and Christ for the Nations. He also faithfully supported Alliene's ministry as a respected Bible teacher and counselor, even as both of them continued to pursue busy professional careers.
In 2001, Alliene and Wylie moved to Austin to be closer to Shannon and his family, and they lived independently in their beautiful home in the Rollingwood neighborhood until moving into an assisted living residence in 2009.
Wylie was thoroughly devoted to his family and took great pride in the accomplishments of each of his sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren. He is survived by his son Shannon Vale and daughter-in-law Jane of Austin; daughter-in-law Betty Vale of La Jolla, California; grandchildren Elizabeth Gandhi and husband Prashant, Susannah Howieson and husband Devlin, Joshua Vale and Matthew Vale; and one great-grandchild, Celeste Gandhi. He is preceded in death by his mother and father, his brothers Eugene and Francis, and his sister Dorothy. He is also preceded by his beloved wife Alliene and his extraordinary son Wylie, Jr., and he bore their passing in November 2010 and January 2012, respectively, with characteristic dignity and fortitude.
A memorial service will be held at 1:30 PM on Saturday, February 2nd at Westlake Hills Presbyterian Church in Austin, with a reception following at the church. Interment will occur in a private ceremony for the family. In lieu of flowers, for those so desiring, contributions may be made to The Wylie Vale Fund for the Rice School of Architecture, Rice University, P.O. Box 1892, Houston TX 77251.
The family would like to offer our deepest gratitude to Maria Pulido, who with her husband Arnold and their children made such a contribution to both Alliene and Wylie's comfort and happiness over the past 11 years. We would also like to thank the members of the staff at The Summit at Westlake and at Texas Home Health Hospice for their compassionate support during Wylie's final weeks, as well as the assisted living staff of The Querencia.
Obituary and memorial guestbook available online at www.wcfish.com
3125 N Lamar Blvd,
Austin, TX 78705
Published in Houston Chronicle from Jan. 27 to Jan. 31, 2013