VERY USEFUL LESSON – Pacific High School student Madison Mercer adjusts a mirror as Matt Groen, Pacific High School teacher, shows a large class how to butcher deer meat this morning at Sitka High School. For the second year in a row Meggan Turner, Sitka High School foods and nutrition teacher, has brought in Sitka black tail deer she's harvested to demonstrate methods of processing deer meat. She says it's a great way for Sitka High and Pacific High students to learn in the same classroom. Sitka Tribe of Alaska's Charlie Skultka was on hand to share traditional stories and processing techniques. Also pictured is Pacific High student Demetri Lestenkoff. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

Dick Wilson Sums Up His ‘Good Long Life’

Dick Wilson

Okay folks. I made it to the age of 91, a good 32 years beyond the average expiration date that was estimated for me when I was born on July 22, 1927, in Chicago, Illinois.

That is a good long life  – though I would have preferred to stick around long enough to finish reading the Harry Potter books for the 50th time. Darn, I was sooo close. I will also miss watching Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune with my youngest daughter Linda and the nice phone calls I shared each night with my eldest daughter Carol who lives in Ketchikan. 

It was a good life. I joined the Marine Corps in June 1945 at the age of 17 and received an honorable discharge a year later. So off to college in Fort Collins, Colorado, I went and not only graduated with a degree in forestry, but met the love of my life and my forever hiking buddy, Doris Ann Baker. We both loved the mountains and spent a lot of time hiking and climbing. I was known to climb Long’s Peak on January 1 just to be the first person to the top that year. 

In 1949, I became a smoke jumper. Yep, not afraid to jump from a plane into a forest on fire. I was fit, young and sure of myself. I was the first person on the jump list on August 5, 1949, and I was sent out with one other smoke jumper in the smallest of our planes to locate the source of some smoke that had been reported. We never did find a fire, but landed back at our headquarters just as the DC-3, carrying 15 of my smoke jumping comrades, took off to fight the infamous Mann Gulch fire. My fate was to help recover the remains of the dead. I was the only one with a camera on site that day. Some of my photos were published in Life magazine, but I refused to sell the images of my friends, so horribly burned.

Luck had me surviving to marry Doris in 1950, and we set out together to build a family and a life within the culture of the U.S. Forest Service, which meant traveling to various posts in the National Forest system. We moved every few years and my posts included Enterprise, Oregon, where our son Fred was born; Ketchikan, where our daughter Carol was born; and Jamestown, California, where our daughter Linda was born.

Our family moved back to Alaska in 1970, and I made it my goal to retire within this state we loved so much.  

I retired in 1982 and settled with my wife in Sitka.  With so much time on my hands, I took up a new cause advocating for mental health services and mental health rights, particularly for children. I was a member of SAMI (Sitka Alliance for the Mentally Ill) and NAMI (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill), and was appointed to the Governor’s Advisory Board on Mental Health. I thank the community of Sitka for honoring my efforts as a mental health advocate and I am so grateful that I had the opportunity serve the community.

In the end, I want you to know that I valued wilderness and the beauty of nature. That despite being a Marine and a Smokejumper, I was a gentle man who valued peace. I watched romantic comedies, collected and watched all the movie variations of the Cinderella fairy tale, and enjoyed rubbing cat bellies. Most importantly, I want you to know that I loved my family dearly and lived to meet three great-grandchildren who called me G-G-Pa!

Ah, life. It was a great adventure. And so on to the next adventure. 

I am survived by my dear daughters Carol Wilson and Linda Wilson, two beautiful granddaughters, Katherine Tatsuda and Robin Tatsuda, and three great-grandchildren, Desiree, Emily and Jack.

 

––––

Richard Moore Wilson died Oct. 10, 2018 in Sitka.

 

After rising through the ranks of the U.S. Forest Service, Wilson ended his career as Chatham Area Supervisor of the Tongass National Forest, and chose Sitka as his home after retiring. In accordance with his wishes the family plans to have a private celebration of his life. In recognition of his love for children, the family suggests memorial contributions in his name be made to organizations that support youths and children.  

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