Bill Thompson of 'Wallace and Ladmo' dies at 82

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

PHOENIX -- He was born Bill Thompson, but to the world he'll always be Wallace.

The 82-year-old Valley television legend died Wednesday in Phoenix.

Thompson was best known as co-star of "The Wallace and Ladmo Show," a beloved children's program based in Phoenix.

"Pardon me for not calling him Bill Thompson," said co-star Pat McMahon, "but in the 30 years I was with him, I don't think I ever did that once."

McMahon worked side-by-side with Thompson on the show from 1956 to 1989.

Thompson used to tell a story about a paper he wrote in the seventh grade that began, "I want to make people laugh." He got a C-minus and his teacher told him to get serious.

Fortunately for us, he never did.

"I think he had a gift for creating comedy and making people laugh," McMahon said. "But to me, his legacy was that he had such respect for kids that he refused to talk down to them."

The show's childhood fans are all grown up, but they still have fond memories of Wallace.

"I would say he's a hero in my life, and watching him with my kids on a family show, that was so important," said one Valley man.

Despite being the show's producer and head writer, Thompson always deflected credit for its success, according to McMahon.

"That was far too humble because he was truly the creative force behind the entire thing," McMahon said.

The New York native moved to the Valley in 1952 and created the Wallace Snead character about two years later. The show became one of the longest-running local kids' shows in American TV history.

Thompson died after a prolonged illness, but McMahon said his co-star is smiling wherever he is.

"I know that no matter how sick he was, there was not one moment when he didn't think something was funny," McMahon said.