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Famed Francestown illustrator dies at 78

  • A Pawprints Greeting card illustration by Wallace Tripp. The illustrator, who passed away at his Francestown home recently, lived in the Monadnock Region throughout his life. Courtesy images

  • Courtesy images

  • A Pawprints Greeting card illustration by Wallace Tripp. The illustrator, who passed away at his Francestown home recently, lived in the Monadnock Region throughout his life. Courtesy

  • Illustrations created by Franscestown illustrator Wallace Tripp. Tripp passed away earlier this month after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. Courtesy

  • Courtesy 

  • A Pawprints Greeting card illustration by Wallace Tripp. The illustrator, who passed away at his Francestown home recently, lived in the Monadnock Region throughout his life. Courtesy 



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Thursday, September 20, 2018 10:56AM

Francestown illustrator Wallace “Wally” Tripp, known for his whimsical greeting cards and children’s book illustrations, died earlier this month, after a long fight with Parkinson’s disease.

Tripp, 78, was born in Boston, said his daughter, Loren Tripp, in an interview Tuesday, but spent his adolescence and high-school years in Peterborough. His illustrations grace the yearbook paged for Peterborough High School for his graduating year on 1957.

Illustration and drawing was always a passion for Wally, Loren said. The family still has some childhood drawings his parents saved for him.

“He was always drawing funny animals, wearing period clothes or hats, even when he was at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts,” Loren said.

Wally’s anthropomorphic illustrations would become what he was best known for, after he settled down from a career teaching English to devote himself to being a full-time illustrator.

Tripp was one of several illustrators who worked on the “Amelia Bedelia” series of children’s books, as well as illustrating over 40 other books, including “‘Stand Back,’ Said the Elephant, ‘I’m Going to Sneeze!’”, “A Great Big Ugly Man Came Up and Tied His Horse to Me” and “Sir Toby Jingle’s Beastly Journey.”

Many Monadnock residents may remember Wally’s illustrations from greeting cards from Pawprints Greeting Cards, a business located in Peterborough originally, then Jaffrey, which he and his wife inherited from his parents in 1975. Wally illustrated 600 greeting cards for the company, many featuring the anthropomorphized animals such as mice, which had become his specialty.

Under his then-wife Marcy Tripp’s publishing company Sparhawk Books, he published “Wallace Tripp’s Wurst Seller,” a book which exemplified his sense of humor with nonsense poetry and illustrated puns.

Of all the books he’d worked on, as an illustrator or writer, that is her favorite, Loren said, because it showcased her father’s humor, which was a huge part of his personality.

“That’s the best of his illustration, but it’s also just really ridiculous puns,” she said.

Wally encouraged his children’s artistic passions, and his three children all entered artistic careers, as did all three of his grandsons.

“He did things like take a squiggle one of his grandson’s had made, turn it into this elaborate illustration, and then say something like, ‘Look what my grandson made. Isn’t he talented?’” Loren recalled.

Even as his Parkinson’s began to take his fine motor skills away, that humor didn’t fade, Loren said. As his disease advanced, and he had trouble controlling his right hand, he began to learn to draw with his left, to continue illustrating. By 1999, when he had to retire from the greeting card business because the disease had progressed so far, he still managed to keep his humor intact, especially in front of his family and grandchildren.

“He was an incredibly devoted grandfather. Once, he was crashing around the house, because he wasn’t able to keep his balance. My mother asked him, ‘Wally, what are you doing?’ and he said, ‘Well, I have to entertain my grandsons.’”

In 2001, when he received a surgery to receive deep brain stimulation implants to help with his Parkinson’s symptoms, his grandchildren took to calling him “Cyborg Grandpa.”

Wally returned to the Monadnock Region in 2007, where he reconnected with his high-school sweetheart, living together in Francestown on Pleasant Pond – which Loren called “his favorite place to be” until his Parkinson’s forced him to move into assisted living at Scott-Farrar in Peterborough, and eventually to Pheasant Wood Center for more specialized nursing care.

He eventually returned to his Francestown home for hospice care at the end of his life, and was able to spend his last days with family, friends, and his two cats.

A memorial service is planned for June at his Pleasant Pond cabin. In lieu of flowers, the family ask that donations be sent to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.