Wallace Earl Clendenen saved Marvin B. Gass from drowning, Tellico Plains, Tennessee, May 10, 1941. Gass, 20, student, fell into the Bald River at a waterfall; and greatly dazed, he was carried to a point 15 feet from the bank, where the water was eight feet deep. He was 30 feet above the brink of a higher fall. Clendenen, 19, student, who was fully clothed and whose knee was weak from a strain, jumped down from the bank onto a rock three feet above the water-level and dived into the water. He swam 10 feet toward Gass, who was submerged, dived, and got hold of him. Gass threw his arms around Clendenen’s waist, and Clendenen tried to break the hold but could not. He got to the surface; and then with Gass clinging to him, he swam 15 feet to a rock, twice having been submerged by Gass’s weight. A youth got hold of Gass, broke his hold on Clendenen, and pulled him and then Clendenen onto the rock. Gass was almost unconscious but was revived. Clendenen was fatigued and badly winded. 39005-3234
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Knoxville – Wallace E. “Wally” Clendenen, age 98, passed away peacefully in his sleep Thursday, August 27, 2020. He was a member of St. Paul United Methodist Church in Fountain City. He was a graduate of Tennessee Wesleyan College and, while attending there, was awarded a medal from the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission for saving the life of a fellow student who had fallen into the Bald River at a waterfall. A member of the “greatest generation” and a World War II veteran, he served as a Staff Sergeant in the United States Army Air Corps with the 42nd Bombardment Wing. As a radio operator-gunner on the B-26 Marauder, he flew 66 missions over Italy, France, and Germany, and was awarded the Air Medal with Three Oak Leaf Clusters. He was also awarded the Croix de Guerre avec Palme by the French government for his part in preparing for and supporting the French Army during an Allied offensive in Italy. A man of deep faith, he was asked to serve as a Chaplain’s Assistant during his time of service.
After returning from the war, he served as a student pastor of University Avenue Methodist Church. Although he never went on to seminary, he spent many years teaching Sunday School at Second, Washington Pike, Cokesbury, and St. Paul United Methodist Churches. When he retired, he was President of Knoxville Wholesale Drug Company. He also served as President of the Tennessee Drug Association and of the Knoxville unit of Toastmasters International. A graduate of Knoxville High School in 1940, he was honored at the Centennial Celebration in 2010, as one of a “stellar list of 100 KHS alums,” and inducted into the Hall of Fame.
He and his wife, Ede, loved Pat Summitt and the Lady Vols. Even though they did not go to the arena, they never missed a game on tv. His favorite activity was playing golf and, a few weeks before his death, he was photographed still checking out his skills on the putting green where he lived.
Wally was a voracious reader and great storyteller, and loved to share his many stories from a lifetime of almost 99 years, not hesitating to bring in fantastical embellishments. He wrote a book for his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren entitled The Way It Was, an account of his experiences during the war. He became a published author with his novel Abiding Love: One Woman’s Journey Through Prohibition, the Depression, and World War II.
When others share their stories about him, they always focus on his love of family; his fun-loving spirit and contagious smile; and, his quick wit, sense of humor and “belly” laughs. Wally is preceded in death by his wife Edith “Ede” Epps Clendenen; daughter, Jenny Lou; parents, Clifford and Grace Clendenen: brother and sister-in-law, “Pip” Clendenen and Barbara Clendenen Whisman; and, sister and brother-in-law, Jean Clendenen Brown and Herbert Brown. He is survived by his daughter, Patricia A. Clendenen (Sven-Erik Hansson); sons, Gary L. Clendenen (Susan), Philip N. Clendenen, Sr., and Mark K. Clendenen; 7 grandchildren, Kim Bowlin and Tricia Fields; Brett Clendenen (Kim) and Tyler Clendenen (Caitlin Mitchell, fiancé); Phil Clendenen, Jr., Chris Clendenen (Alma), and Brandon Clendenen (Lindsay); 10 great-grandchildren, Zach and Davis Bowlin; Mackenzie, Natalie, and Grayson Clendenen; Jaden McCulley and Robbie Clendenen; Jackson Burghett and Olivia Clendenen; and, Carter Clendenen; and several nieces and nephews.
The family extends its deep gratitude to Jett Caple-Grey, his longtime caregiver; Darlene “Cricket” Hartwick, his devoted friend; the former Kay Center at Church Street United Methodist Church; Concord Adult Day Enrichment Services (CADES) at Concord United Methodist Church; The Pointe at Lifespring; and UT Hospice for their immeasurable love and care.
A celebration of Wally’s life will be held at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, September 19th at the fountain area outside the mausoleum at Highland Cemetery. Officiating will be The Rev. Patricia A. Clendenen and The Rev