Pilot makes long haul to honor dad after thieves steal balloon

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE)- A woman wasn’t about to let thieves stop her from honoring her late father at this year’s Balloon Fiesta. When someone stole his beloved balloon from a hotel parking lot, she traveled by plane and car to get another one.

Marilyn Wallace frantically dials up a tipster claiming to have information about her late father’s stolen balloon.

“Oh my God! I’m calling right now,” Marilyn said. “Your mother? She thinks she saw it?”

Her mother, Lucinda Wallace, watches on.

“Oh God help us!” exclaims Lucinda. “Can you imagine?! That would be wonderful!”

For a while, they thought their prayers had been answered. A custom trailer, along with the Chevy Suburban towing it, was stolen out of the Nativo Lodge parking lot on Saturday morning. Inside the trailer was a priceless balloon with a handmade American Flag on the side, designed by Marilyn and her sister as children. Lucinda and her husband, Rick Wallace, had crafted it on their dining room table.

Rick used to fly it every Fiesta- for more than three decades. The family wanted to fly in memory of Rick and came to Albuquerque last week to fly his balloon.

Not long after Marilyn received the tip, their hopes were crushed.

“Police are there and they don’t see it,” Lucinda said.

“We had our hopes up really high. Our hopes were up. It deflated very quickly,” Marilyn and Lucinda talk over each other.

Hours after they discovered their family heirloom was stolen, they were back on a plane to Santa Monica.

“Going back and getting the other balloon really seemed like the only option, it really became the only option,” said Marilyn.

Back in Santa Monica, Marilyn has her own balloon. Family members there rushed to get the pieces together.

“My husband picked me and mom up at the airport with the truck and the envelope in it and hen mom and I got in and put him in a taxi,” recalled Marilyn.

Then the two made the 12 hour trip back to Albuquerque, stopping in Flagstaff for a three-hour nap.

“We mustered ourselves and drove back here. We played music, we sang, we chatted, we did other things,” says Lucinda.

“We bonded,” added Marilyn.

“Yes, we bonded,” Lucinda agreed.

They arrived back in town Sunday afternoon. Monday, pushing everything else aside, they flew. And they’ll continue to fly, all week, in honor of Rick.

The Wallace’s crew is made up of people from across the country. It’s another reason why they felt they had to come back. They say they didn’t want to disappoint them.

Police are still searching for the SUV, trailer and balloon.

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