FINAL CURTAIN Don "The Puppet Man" Wallis, 74, a fixture of the SLO County arts scene who performed more than 9,000 puppet shows in his long career, has taken his final bow.
Farewell to The Puppet Man Don "The Puppet Man" Wallis, 74, was born in San Luis Obispo in Oct. 1946, and passed away on Aug. 18 in French Hospital after a coronary following a long battle with COPD. Wallis was a fixture of the SLO arts scene. He founded two local theater groups, acted in 100 roles on stage and radio, including one-man shows as Mark Twain and John Muir, and performed more than 9,000 puppet shows. He wrote hundreds of poems, more than 60 of which were published in newspapers and magazines, and many more in two poetry collections, Two Provincial Voices: Selected Poems of James D. Owen and Don Wallis and The Puppet Man: New & Selected Poems. Wallis studied Intellectual and Cultural History of the Modern World, Literature, and Theater Arts at Cuesta College, Cal Poly, and UCSB. He was also a peace activist. During the Vietnam War, he did alternative Conscientious Objector service in Berkeley, suffered a mental breakdown after the '69 Berkeley riots, and eventually returned to and recovered in SLO where he threw himself into the arts. As a spokesman for children, mental health, and social change, Wallis was deeply empathetic and used his art to make sense of a senseless world. Close friend Mike Cowdrey recalled, "We sat and talked for more than an hour on Monday afternoon [two days before his death]. The current plight of children in Afghanistan and Haiti was high among his concerns." He is preceded in death by his father, Robert R. Wallis; his mother, Emma H. (Tillman) Wallis-Mazza; and his brother, Milo W. Wallis. He's survived by his brother and sister-in-law, John L. and Denise Wallis; his nieces, Melissa (Wallis) Dasker and husband Dale, Mona Wallis, Kelly (Wallis) Castro and husband Paul; his nephew Robert L. Wallis; great-nieces Jazmine Castro, Alexander Dasker, and Holly Sullivan; and his great-nephews Miles Dasker, Vaughn Wallis, and Thomas Wallis
Published by New Times San Luis Opisbo from Aug. 26 to Aug. 31, 2021.
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MEMORIES & CONDOLENCES
Don, I found out about your passing on Dec 27th. I had no idea. I learned this when I called the phone number you've had for 2 decades and it was out of service. That pretty much gave it away.
I first met you as a customer when I worked at Mondeo Pronto in Downtown Slo (2007) and You later became my neighbor at the Granada building on Morro St.. You were most definitely one of the best neighbors I've ever really had. You listened while I vented about life issues, and you shared your own life experiences with me. The one thing we had in common the most was our love for movies. So many times we talked about Hollywood stuff and had good conversation.
I knew this day was coming soon as I am sure you did too and when I called, it was the last thing on my mind, and was a sudden surprise.
Don, I will always remember you as a movie pal and even more, a good friend. I hope you know you had an influence on my life and there's no way I could forget about friendship.
You were the type of person that only wanted to see this world get better and for that I am grateful to have you in my life.
RIP Don. I will miss you.