Fans pay tribute to longtime KPHO kids' show hostPosted: Updated:
Fans and cast members paid tribute Monday night to the host of one of the longest-running, daily, locally produced children's television shows in American broadcasting.
Bill Thompson was 82 when he died July 23.
The public service was held at the Harkins Cine Capri Theatre in the Tempe Marketplace, 2000 E. Rio Salado Parkway, at the intersection of Loop 101 and Loop 202.
The tribute featured special appearances, performances, Wallace and Ladmo memorabilia and show clips of Thompson's greatest work.
"Wallace holds a special place in the hearts of Arizonans, and it is a great honor to celebrate the life of my dear friend Wallboy," said Dan Harkins, owner and chief executive officer of Harkins Theatres and a lifetime friend of Thompson. "He was like a second father to me, and his support was vital in Harkins Theatres' early years."
The theater will be taking donations in Wallace's honor on behalf of the Banner Health Foundation for Cardon Children's Hospital and the Arizona Humane Society.
Legions of fans remember Thompson as Wallace Snead from the Wallace and Ladmo show that aired on KPHO-TV for 36 years.
"You know, it's absolutely amazing," said former Valley TV weathercaster Dewey Hopper. "You can mention his name to anybody that's been in this area any length of time, and they know who he is and what it's all about. He's amazing."
Film director Steven Spielberg grew up watching the show. It inspired him to write a letter to the show's longtime director, Sharon Kelley, in December 1997.
"Your show inspired me, made me laugh, made me think and even raised my level of expectations whenever I looked around at things that could make me laugh," Spielberg wrote in part.
"The show was this unique property that lasted for 36 years, unheard in television, with the same cast," said McMahon, who reflected on Thompson's death. "Even after all this time, it has remained such a solid landmark with everybody."
"I remember as a 10 year old, (53 rears ago), at Encanto Park, I received my LADMO BAG. In it was an oil painting on velvet of a horse head. I treasured that moment. My three brothers got nothing that day, only me, just another freckled face red headed kid." - Gail Moore
"This was my after school entertainment everyday. Nothing will ever be like Wallace and Ladmo." - Susan Gregory
"Feeling like I lost a part of my family. Growing up daily with Wallace and Ladmo was a memorable part of my childhood." - Kathy Gonzales
"Part of my childhood is gone. Wallace you were amazing. Thank you for the memories." - Robin Peters
"Loved the show! Mr. Grudgemeir was my favorite! Wallace, RIP." - Roberta Westcott
"This so heartbreaking, I'm in tears. I'm a native and watched the Wallace and Lady show until it ended. May his family have all the peace and comfort they need and most sincere condolences to them as well." - Richard Gonzales
Copyright 2014 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved. Retired KPHO-TV pioneer Sharon Kelley, who directed 1,700 episodes of the show, contributed the history in this report.