Tempe Monthly Meeting notes with grief the sudden passing of our steadfast member, Carl Wallen, who died in his home at Friendship Village on Second Month, 26th, 2014. Although his health had been challenged over the past several years, his death came unexpectedly.
He was born in Glendale, California, in 1931. Soon afterward, his veterinarian father died. His mother, Winifred (Batten) Wallen, being unable to care for him, Carl spent most of his childhood at the Masonic Children’s Home in Covina. The US Army drafted him in 1952 and he served in the military police until 1954.
Carl came to the Society of Friends through his marriage in 1959 to LaDonna Leigh Stanley, becoming a member of Long Beach First Friends Church. Educated at UC Santa Barbara (B.A. 1956) and San Francisco State (M.A. 1960), he began his long educational career in 1956 as a public school teacher in Mt. Eden and Laguna Salada, California, leaving in 1960 to enter a doctoral program at Stanford University. While living there, Carl and LaDonna were blessed by the arrival of their first child, Erik, in 1962. That same year, Carl received his doctorate in education and joined the faculty at Oregon State University. When the couple moved, they transferred their memberships to Corvallis Meeting, where their sons Todd and Michael were born, and then transferred to Eugene Meeting in 1965 when Carl was hired by the Oregon State System of Higher Education and then the University of Oregon. In 1973 Carl accepted his final faculty position at Arizona State University in Tempe. While here he published several well-regarded books on reading and on classroom management (some with LaDonna as coauthor), and served for five years as Chairman of the Department of Elementary Education. In the winter of 1975, Carl and LaDonna wrote of their hope for “continued participation and spiritual growth in the family of Tempe Friends”, where their memberships have remained ever since.
Carl served Tempe Friends in many capacities, including the Building and Grounds Committee, the Nominating Committee, Worship & Ministry, Counsel & Oversight, and Peace & Social Concerns, a term as Presiding Clerk in 1985-86, and long service on the Adult Religious Education Committee. Many Tempe Friends became aware of the work of the Jesus Seminar and the writings of Marcus Borg and John Shelby Spong through Carl’s leadership in the adult First-day School. Carl and LaDonna were so active in Tempe Meeting, often spending several days each week at the meetinghouse to check on things, that at least one member referred to him as “Mr. Quaker”. In the years before Tempe Friends had built a meetinghouse, the Wallens’ home telephone was listed as the Meeting’s contact number. On more than one occasion, Carl answered a late-night call for help, and drove out to assist a stranger who needed rent, or groceries, or gas money. He refused to take his sons along on these potentially dangerous trips, but didn’t refuse to go himself.
During and after the Vietnam War, Carl made himself available as a draft counselor for young men facing conscientious choices about military service. He edited and produced the monthly Tempe Meeting Newsletter for many years, providing items of information or interest, and humorous anecdotes by or about Friends. He organized the registration process for Tempe Meeting’s annual retreats, and served Arizona Half-yearly Meeting on Nominating Committee, and as the AHYM Prison Project Liaison and Clemency Oversight Committee Convenor.
Carl worked to assist LaDonna during her time as Clerk of Intermountain Yearly Meeting, and they served as Registrars for one of the IMYM annual sessions at Fort Lewis College in Durango. In the early 1990s, he produced an influential report on the changing relationship between the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and the Religious Society of Friends, commenting particularly on what he viewed as a secularizing influence of the growing number of non-Quaker members of the AFSC professional staff.
Carl stepped in to serve on Juan Pascoe’s support committee when Pima Monthly Meeting in Tucson released Juan for his work encouraging the governments of Mexico and the United States to establish a guest worker program (instead of the present humiliating and illegal labor practices for undocumented immigrants). Carl was instrumental in developing sources of financial support for the work, which Juan pursued tirelessly, making official contacts and detailed proposals in both national capitals. Although no concrete action has resulted so far, Friends in Arizona Half-yearly Meeting have minuted gratitude for the long effort to imagine and implement a humane rational alternative to the haphazard and degrading current policy.
Carl represented the Society of Friends on the Arizona Ecumenical Council (AEC) for many years, explaining (with his characteristic wry humor) to each crop of new members of the Council that he was not, in fact, the Quaker bishop. As part of his AEC service he was a participating member of the bishops’ executive round table composed of juridical church leaders who lovingly endorsed his participation–even as they struggled to understand unprogrammed Quaker “hierarchy”. On an AEC-sponsored trip to the Holy Land and the Vatican, the Roman Catholic bishop of Phoenix invited Carl to lead the delegation in prayer. After a long silence, the bishop repeated his request that Carl lead the group in prayer, to which Carl answered that he had just done so. He worked to educate and sensitize these officially ordained and theologically trained AEC members on matters of concern to Friends, especially focusing on peace and social justice. Carl supported a sentiment to broaden the scope of the AEC, and helped launch the Arizona Interfaith Movement, a more inclusive body. One of his colleagues on the AEC attended a meeting for worship with Tempe Friends and remarked to Carl afterward, “We have the theater, but you Quakers have the substance.”
For 16 years, Carl stayed active in the Prisoner Visitation and Support organization, as he’d felt a calling to visit at Federal prisons and provide some friendship to inmates who had no contact with their own friends or family. Over the years, Carl heard the stories and developed friendships with these men, serving as a sympathetic and caring presence. He mentioned a particular man who’d been arrested in Florida not long after arriving as one of the boat people expelled from Cuba. Carl Wallen was his one and only connection to a reality outside the walls of the Federal Correctional Institution. It became very important to Carl not to disappoint this man by missing a monthly visit, and for years he made the long drive to Tucson and back on his own. It worried and frustrated him when the Cuban man was transferred to a new facility, as the rules prevented Carl from keeping in contact and learning the final outcome of the case. Those Tempe Friends who later took PVS training and became prison visitors were following a trail blazed by Carl.
Carl served faithfully on the Residents’ Council of Friendship Village retirement community, first for a year as Vice President, then for another year as President. Though his adherence to Quaker decision-making process confused some, the residents greatly appreciated his service, especially as he was often presiding while in great pain. He was also reliably available to cook the meat main dish when Tempe Friends served meals at the Interfaith Homeless Emergency Lodging Program (IHELP).
Carl was a Friend with firm opinions that he was willing to express strongly, though he always stayed open to new understanding and always stood grounded in love and fellowship. Carl had a strong belief that it was important to help each person he met – and each group he was a part of – in rising to their full potential. When he resigned his job as a teacher to enter the doctoral program at Stanford in 1960, he wrote: “It is my sincere hope that I have contributed in some measure to the betterment of this district.” These simple and sincere words capture Carl Wallen’s approach to life. He will be greatly missed by all who knew him.
Carl is survived by LaDonna Leigh (Stanley) Wallen, his wife of 53 years; his sons Erik, Todd, and Michael; his daughters-in-law Sarah and Beth; his grandchildren Caleb, Grace, Nathan, Katie, Matthew, and Emma; his sister JoAnn (Wallen) Nelson; and his nieces Kristy Leffors, Kathy Turner, and Karen Nelson. To them especially, we offer our heartfelt condolences.