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August 12, 2011 > Obituary: Clarence Conrad Walla

Obituary: Clarence Conrad Walla

August 17, 1931 - July 29, 2011

C. Conrad Walla, age 79 years and 11 months, passed away July 29, 2011. Conrad was preceded in death by his brother, Harlow Edward Walla, a renowned architect in Vancouver, WA. He is survived by his sister, Betty Bolt of Portland, OR, his beloved wife, Ann, and his sons, Craig, of Fremont, and Mark, of Portland, OR, and their respective wives, Michele and Holly as well as grandchildren Ryan and Sydney of Fremont. Conrad also left thousands of former students and friends, all of whom mourn his passing, but share in the joy of having been touched by the presence of this wonderful man in their lives.

He was born in Arnegard, North Dakota on Aug. 17, 1931 to Clarence and Cornelia Walla. Conrad became a part of the Fremont/Newark community when he began teaching choral music at Newark High School in 1964. He also taught at Newark Memorial High School, Newark Junior High, a nighttime community chorus at Ohlone College and most of the elementary schools in Newark. Countless numbers of students from Grammar School through High School all learned how to sing or play a musical instrument as he travelled throughout the district.

Prior to his local teaching career, Conrad studied at Clark Jr College, Vancouver, WA, at Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA, and at SFSU where he received his degree in Choral Music and his California Teaching Credential. While in SFSU he was a regular tenor soloist for several of the Jewish Synagogues, as well as Grace Cathedral and several Presbyterian churches in town.

Conrad remained connected with the Gonzaga University Men's Glee Club Alumni and would travel to Spokane once a year to sing and meet the students who were recipients of a scholarship program which the Alumni founded in 1998. Twenty-two of these alumni friends recently came to Fremont to sing, in his honor, at a Christ the King Lutheran Church morning worship service where Conrad was choir director for 25 years. Conrad had remained active in that congregation until the time of his death.

After retiring in 1986, he joined the Meals on Wheels Program through Life Elder Care, and served several years on the Cultural Arts Council and the Olive Hyde Arts Guild. One of his unrealized dreams was to see a Cultural Arts Center built in Fremont.

A lyric tenor, Conrad sang in many choral groups, The Loring Club of SF, and the SF Bay Area Chamber Choir. He traveled with the SFBACC, singing in some of the most prestigious cathedrals in Europe including Saint Peter's in Rome. But his favorite singing "gig" was with the Bracebridge Singers, a group that performs for two weeks every Dec, at Yosemite National Park. He and his wife spent their first Christmas there in 1958. His family has enjoyed the beautiful Yosemite Valley every December thereafter; in 2008 the Singers recognized Conrad for his 50 years of participation in and dedication to the traditions of the Bracebridge Dinner.

"Con", as he was popularly known, enjoyed talking with friends and strangers alike over a cup of coffee and could be found most mornings at Peets Coffee or The Nile. One of his greatest joys was directing the Senior Singers at the Fremont Community Center and entertaining at convalescent and retirement homes in Fremont, leading them in "sing-a-longs".

The following are quotes from past students and friends when hearing of Conrad Walla's passing:
"He was one of the most compassionate and inspirational mentors of my youth"

"He was passionate about music and voice and transferred that joy to his students"

"The best man that I have ever known (besides my father) has gone to be with the angels. I know that he will be teaching the angels songs like Happy Heart, Feelings-- but I do know that EVERYONE will be singing..."

"Many of us lost a mentor, a teacher, and a friend. He taught a whole generation of Newark kids to love music, a one of a kind gentleman that made a huge impact on my life"

"It's a little piece of his generous nature that has meant a great deal to me. Besides his humor and ageless persona, I will cherish the years of his friendship. And if I may add... thanks Mr. Walla for being a teacher... especially to my kids"

"He brought out the voice in me. I will forever be grateful to him for the way he
"walked and guided" us through those years"

"He sang at my oldest daughter's wedding. To me he was like Dick Clark never seemed to age. Thought he would last for ever

"Thanks to his inspiration, all my children are involved in music. They are all in band and sing and participate in musicals. (I have nine kids!)"

"I had the privilege of working with Mr. Walla for over 20 years, until he retired from teaching in 1986. As the new drama teacher for the district, I was fortunate to learn first hand about Conrad's ability to teach anyone how to sing. It was his work with the High School musicals that brought me close to him, allowing me to learn from his example how to give the kids confidence and joy, using positive help and a loving attitude to teach them. He literally took my hand, and drawing an imaginary line on the floor, we "jumped" over the line and began our first collaboration together on the musical, Damn Yankees. After that, we became a team, I often called Conrad my "Magic Man." For that is, indeed what he was - a magician helping teach the kids how to create their own magic through the joy of singing. The students who attended Newark Unified Schools were blessed to have Mr. Walla, as their teacher, and I was blessed to be able to call him my friend, forever. I will love you always, Conrad, my "Magic Man." ~Barbara (Anderson) Williams, Newark teacher from Sept. 1965 to June 2004

A Memorial service will be held on Wednesday, August 17, 2pm at the Newark Memorial High School Theater, 39375 Cedar Blvd., Newark, CA 94560.

The Walla family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to one of three organizations:
* Christ the King Lutheran Church, 1301 Mowry Ave., Fremont, CA 94536
* Kaiser Hayward Hospice, 30116 Eigenbrodt Way, Union City, CA 94587
* LIFE Elder Care, Meals On Wheels Program, 3300 Capitol Ave., Fremont, CA 94538

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