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Beloved Watauga High School Faculty Member, Coach Leigh Cooper Wallace Loses Battle to Pneumonia Monday

By Paul T. Choate

Leigh Cooper Wallace, 43, passed away on Monday, Dec. 17, at the Johnson City Medical Center. Photo from Facebook
Leigh Cooper Wallace, 43, passed away on Monday, Dec. 17, at the Johnson City Medical Center. Photo from Facebook

Dec. 18, 2012. Watauga High School and the High Country community is grieving over the tragic loss of 43-year-old Leigh Cooper Wallace, a beloved teacher, cross country, track and women’s lacrosse coach and athlete. Wallace passed away on Monday at the Johnson City Medical Center after losing her battle with pneumonia.

“She was a tremendous person and tremendous teacher and coach,” said WHS Athletics Director Tom Wright. “She will be greatly missed.”

Wallace, of Todd, was diagnosed with pneumonia last week and was taken to Johnson City Medical Center on Sunday. 

An Appalachian State University alumna, Wallace ran cross country and track while at ASU and was widely known in the community for being a strongly devoted athlete. She was inducted into the now defunct Watauga Sports Hall of Fame in 2005. 

She is survived by her husband, Chris Wallace, and her two children, Haleigh and Jake. 

In wake of the tragic death, Wright postponed WHS basketball games with Fred T. Foard today and West Caldwell on Thursday. The games will be rescheduled at a later date yet to be announced. Wallace’s daughter, Haleigh, plays on the women’s basketball team at the high school. 

“We felt like it would be the respectful thing to do,” Wright said. 

Hampton Funeral and Cremation Service is in charge of the arrangements. Online condolences may be sent to the Cooper and Wallace families at hamptonfuneralnc.com.

According to Barney Hampton, owner of Hampton Funeral and Cremation Services, a visitation for family is scheduled for tomorrow, Dec. 19, at Watauga High School from 5 to 8 p.m. Wallace’s memorial service will be held on Thursday, Dec. 20, at 3 p.m. at WHS. 

Courtesy of Hampton Funeral and Cremation Services

Leigh Cooper Wallace, 43, of Todd, NC passed away unexpectedly Monday morning at Johnson City Medical Center, Tennessee. Leigh was born in the Panama Canal Zone on August 12, 1969, to Louise and Claude Cooper. She grew up in a military family and lived in many places in her youth: Panama Canal Zone; Rock Hill, SC; Fort Benning, GA; Fort Bragg, NC, Altoona, PA; Fort Buchanan, PR; and Fort Leavenworth, KS. While living in these different places, Leigh learned the value of lasting friendships and cultural diversity.

She graduated in 1987 from Leavenworth (KS) High School, then graduated from Appalachian State University in 1992 with a degree in Exercise Science. She was a standout distance runner for ASU, winning the Southern Conference outdoor championships in track in 1992 in the 3000, 5000, and 10,000 meter events. Leigh also coached track and cross country at Watauga High School for over ten years, and her teams won numerous conference, regional, and state championships. She taught Healthful Living and physical education at Watauga High School from 1998 until the present. She helped establish women’s lacrosse as a varsity sport at Watauga High School and was the first head coach in this sport. She was inducted into the Watauga Sports Hall of Fame in 2006.

In addition to her parents, Leigh is survived by her loving husband, Christopher Harold Wallace, and her two cherished children: a son, Jacob Christopher Wallace, and a daughter, Haleigh Lynn Wallace, all of the home. She is also survived by her devoted sisters, Julie Cooper Hodge and Holley Cooper Quick (David), both of Todd; and her special brother Graig Wilson Cooper of San Francisco, CA. She leaves behind five nieces and nephews who loved their Aunt Leigh: Riley and Regan Hodge, Cade and Coen Quick, and Findley Cooper. Also surviving are her great-aunt Connie Martin of Fayetteville and her great aunt and uncle Dixie and John Martin of Charlotte, and many beloved aunts, uncles, and cousins, as well as her husband Chris’s family: Candy and Ray Wallace, and Rodney and Gavin Wallace.

As a parent, teacher, and coach, Leigh’s spirit, inspiration, and memory continue on in the hearts of her children, students, and athletes – those she dedicated herself to most passionately. It is they, along with the staff and faculty of Watauga High School to whom Leigh has imparted the values of good decision-making, working hard to achieve goals and overcome adversity, and truly living life to the fullest every day.

She will be greatly missed by all who knew her.

Visitation will be held at Watauga High School on Wednesday, December 19, 2012, from the hours of 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm. Friends may call at the funeral home, to show their respect, anytime after 3:00 pm on Wednesday. A private internment for the family will be conducted at Mount Lawn Cemetery prior to the memorial service, which will be held at Watauga High School at 3:00 pm on Thursday, December 20, 2012.

In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to the Leigh Cooper Wallace Memorial Fund, c/o State Employees Credit Union in the name of Chris Wallace, 410 New Market Blvd, Boone, NC, or to any North Carolina State Employees Credit Union office.

Online condolences may be sent to the Wallace family at www.hamptonfuneralnc.com.

Hampton Funeral and Cremation Service is in charge of the arrangements.