Turquoise. Cinnamon. Goldenrod. Hot pink. Soft apricot. Pale lilac. Rebecca Wallace lived a life in full color and sharing color with her community was the work of her life. These colors streamed into her community from every angle, through the upcycled garments she sewed to the murals she painted. Her murals have adorned the outside of her houses from her first home outside of Chapel Hill to the side of her garage in Swannanoa. Rebecca didn't keep art to herself. It belonged to everyone.
Rebecca was born in Des Moines, Iowa in 1950 to Donald Wallace and Genevieve Wallace. She has two brothers whose support and love she appreciated, Paul who lives in Oregon, and Stuart in West Virginia.
Since 1984, and therefore most of her life, she has called western North Carolina home. She felt that she found her people in Swannanoa over the last several years. On occasion she would be a snowbird and visit South Carolina or Florida for a month or so in the winter with her dogs.
Rebecca's dogs, of course, have been her beloved companions her whole life. She rescued the spirited and the quirky, the sweet and the droll. All dogs great and small found comfort, safety, and love in her home. She shared her home in Swannanoa with Gretle, Tinker, and Eddie.
Rebecca was a healer. She spent her career helping people, especially children, get better as a physical and occupational therapist.
She was a maker and artist whose medium ranged from textiles to paint to flowers, but whose message was always rooted in connection, in a calling to share the rich colors of a deeply felt existence. Her touch extended outwards. She cared for you, dear reader. You were always in her mind.
While others wander color-blind, Rebecca Wallace saw beauty, value, and brilliance in the unconventional or overlooked. She respected Thornton Dial's thoughts on artful repurposing: "When you make things beautiful out of another person's ideas, it makes the world more beautiful...Art is something to open your eyes. Art is for understanding." She was passionate about living lightly upon the land through reimagining our relationship with objects. Reuse and reinvention were not only a concern for sustainability, but a spiritual practice, a creative vision, and a staunch belief that with a little cleverness and patience, the broken or forgotten can be reclaimed and renewed.
She was the proud mother of Gordon James and Amelia Susannah. In the words of Maya Angelou remembering her mother, Rebecca communicates to her surviving daughter: "You learned that you have power—power and determination. I love you and I am proud of you. With those two things, you can go anywhere and everywhere."
Most of all, she was a friend. She deeply cherished the many relationships built over the years in North Carolina and those friendships were important anchors for her during troubled times.
She would leave you with this parting thought, from a poem by Robinson Jeffers:
I admired the beauty
While I was human, now I am part of the beauty.
Rebecca peacefully passed away at Elizabeth House Hospice on June 13th. A celebration of her life will be held for close friends and family. In lieu of flowers, for those who wish to make a memorial donation, please contribute either to The Manna Food Bank, to help hungry folks in Western North Carolina, or to BeLoved Asheville, to help our unhoused neighbors. If you must give flowers, give one to a friend in Rebecca's name or plant something in a garden.
Condolences can be made to the family at www.ashevilleareaalternative.com
To plant trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store
Published by Asheville Citizen-Times from Jun. 14 to Jun. 15, 2021.