R.I.P. Wally Choice, A Montclair Civic Leader

Wallace “Wally” Choice, Sr., a former Harlem Globetrotter and the driving force behind Montclair Grassroots, died Sunday at Mountainside Hospital. Choice was 85.

Choice was born and raised in Montclair, and grew up just a few blocks away from Glenfield Park. After attending college and playing several years of professional basketball with the Harlem Globetrotters and the Eastern Professional League, Choice returned to Montclair and started his own business. In 1968, he was one of the founding members of Montclair Grass Roots, a community-based organization dedicated to providing quality summer recreation and enrichment programs for children that started with a group of 35 children who were in camp for four weeks and has endured for 50 years, hosting more than 15,000 summer campers.

Dedication of the Wally Choice Community Center in 2009.

In June, Choice, along with his wife and son, attended the reopening of a modernized Wally Choice Community Center. The Glenfield Park House was renamed the Wally Choice Community Center in 2009, to recognize his contributions to the community.

Looking over plans for the modernization with the County Executive are (from left) Essex County Chief of Staff Phil Alagia, MNDC Executive Director Al Pelham, Celine, Wally A. and Wally Choice and Montclair Mayor Robert Jackson. (Photo by Glen Frieson, March 2018)

Montclair Police Lieutenant Tyrone Williams, Jr. shared how much Choice meant to him on Facebook, writing: “My first time entering the “Parkhouse” since your passing, as I ponder and reflect I refuse to be sad or grief stricken, as I know you would not condone such behavior. Instead, I walk in with great pride, enthusiasm and motivation, as I am truly grateful to have had the opportunity to have known you. I thank you for your selfless service to a community, and your example if what it means to be a community activist, a revolutionary, a husband, father …. I could go on and on. Always a gentleman, always a prideful Black Man, and unapologetic for loving and caring about your people. Thank you sir, take your rest, we have it from here.”

A wake for Choice will take place Thursday, from 6-8 p.m. at Martin’s Funeral Home (48 Elm Street, Montclair). On Friday, a funeral service will be held at St.Paul Baptist Church (119 Elm Street, Montclair) at 10 a.m. The funeral procession will pass the Wally Community Center on the way to Rosedale Cemetery.

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