Todd Wallis in a family photo

In the hours before Todd Wallis died from complications of COVID-19, he lay in his residence at Huntington Common in Kennebunk, alone but comfortable as his daughter spoke in his ear from miles away.

Julie Maneikis of Byfield, Massachusetts, was reassured her father could hear her. She sat hunkered in her basement and talked her father through a meditation of a day in his life at Drakes Island in Wells.

“I said, ‘Hi, Dad,’ cheerfully. ‘It’s me,’” Maneikis recalled. “’It’s such a beautiful day. Take a walk with me. Take my hand. We’re at Drakes. The sun is shining. The birds are chirping. Can you smell the salt air?’ We walked. We smelled the fresh-cut grass that he mowed and said hi to Fred Richardson and his Dalmatian. We played some tennis and sat and enjoyed a cold beer on the deck. We had the family there for a lobster dinner. ‘Dad, can you smell the chocolate cake Sophie is making for us?’ Mom was there. She and John were buzzing in and out of the kitchen. I tried to weave in names of his friends and people he knew and liked in the community. We packed in a lot of fun.”

One of his final wishes was to have his ashes scattered at Little River in the outgoing tide. On the morning Mr. Wallis died, Maneikis talked her father through a walk to the river.

“We rested there,” Maneikis said. “I figured it was my way of helping him and being with him in the end. His breathing was gentle. I felt like I was right there with him during his final hours on Earth.”

Mr. Wallis died Jan. 1 at age 85.

Maneikis had the opportunity to say goodbye to her father, thanks to the kindness and compassion of Kara Jones, lead care manager at Huntington Common. Jones placed a cellphone next to his ear and left the room to give them privacy.

When the call ended, Jones put tennis on the TV for him. When Mr. Wallis took his last breath, at about 11:52 a.m., Jones was holding his hand.

“I really appreciate families for allowing us to love and take care of their families,” Jones said on Thursday. “I’m happy that I was there for him when they couldn’t be. He was the sweetest, kindest man. He was very particular about everything. We adored him.”

Mr. Wallis was a retired advertising executive and gifted artist, who had a passion for life and family.

A Massachusetts native, he graduated from Winchester High School in 1952. He spent a year at the University of Maine before transferring to the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. He enlisted in the Army and served two years in the Signal Corps in Karlsruhe, Germany.

Following his discharge, he worked for various advertising firms in Massachusetts before starting his own agency, Wallis Communications. He ran the business for 11 years. His wife of 64 years, Janet Wallis of Kennebunk, often pitched in to help him. In retirement, he did freelance work for prestigious advertising agencies such as Hill Holiday and the former Bronner, Slosberg, Humphrey firm in Boston.

He was remembered as a creative, quick-witted and brilliant writer who took pride in his work. His daughter said he worked on big advertising campaigns for companies such as FedEx and L.L. Bean.

“It was fun for him,” she said. “He would take the bus into Boston. He would create these storyboards to show to big-name customers. They gave him a set of markers and said, ‘OK, we need you to draw X, Y and Z.’ He would go nuts. It was a treat for him.”

Mr. Wallis and his wife raised two daughters, Maneikis and Lyn Holden Mack of Mesa, Arizona.

Maneikis shared stories of their early years, saying he went for bike rides with them and walks through the woods to the pet cemetery. As they got older, he wrote letters to them. She said he was a great father, who always offered his support and encouragement.

“He always had your back,” she said. “He was funny, honest and had integrity. He was really big on doing the right thing. He taught us life lessons like the importance of a firm handshake and looking someone in the eye. If he gave you his word, that was it. He was honest, that’s just the kind of guy he was.”

Mr. Wallis had a lifelong love for Drakes Island. In 1936, his parents built a seaside cottage on the island, where he spent summers since he was a baby.

Maneikis said her father loved the ocean, playing tennis, and being part of the island’s tight-knit community.

“What a place to spend your childhood. It was safe and fun,” she said. “His mother would go out to the car and beep the horn in a series of beeps at dinnertime to signal he should come home. He loved Drakes Island more than any other place in the world. I can’t say how fortunate I am to still have that little cottage largely the way it was. It’s pretty original.”

Mr. Wallis and his wife spent their honeymoon at the cottage. They moved from Massachusetts to Maine in 1999 and settled in Kennebunk around 2006.

Janet Wallis reflected on their life, saying they shared a beautiful life together.

“He was kind, generous and sweet,” she said. “He was always positive. The cup was always half full. He was the most creative guy. He wasn’t only an artist, but a musician and a writer too.”

Mr. Wallis was known for his portraits of pets, people, renderings of homes, commercial buildings and boats.

“He was so talented,” his daughter said. “He had a really good ability to capture the likeness of whatever he was working on.”

In June 2019, Mr. Wallis suffered a stroke and moved to Huntington Common the following January. His daughter said his dementia progressed and he was transferred to a memory care unit last summer. The coronavirus pandemic diminished the quality of visits due to social distancing.

His wife said the most difficult part was not being able to see her husband.

“I wasn’t able to see him for many weeks on end,” she said. “I knew he was declining. When the end came, it was a relief for him and a relief for me. It had been so hard. I’m soldiering on. You have to keep going and take it one day at a time and that’s what I’m doing.”


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