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John O. Wilson
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John Ogden Wilson


Born: March 17, 1938 in San Francisco.


Died: December 31, 2013 at home in Martinez, California, age 75.


I have been privileged to know John-O for many years, he did not make it to 2014. A truer man, a truer soul you’ll never meet. Had he been born centuries ago, we’d probably still be telling tall tales that grew up around his exploits. They’d probably all start something like this: “Well you know there’s strong, and then there’s John-O strong…” He will be sorely, deeply missed. My heart goes out to Brenna Rose Hills-Wilson, Helga Wilson, David A. Wilson, Nick Farmer, Nicole Hills during this time of grieving. A giant has left the world. I suppose the only upside to this is that Daniel now has someone to share a bottle of whiskey with.”  – Tim Flynn

The family outdoors in 1967

Max in the backyard at Emma Drive, Pinole, California, 1960s

In the mountains with Daniel, circa 1960s


“Those were the days! We were all beautiful.”  – Helga Wilson


“A beautiful mountain man. Thanks for sharing.”  – Sally Saunders

7/31/82


David –


Please check in w/ Mutti as soon as you arrive. She worries.


Also, do the following:

1. Water indoor plants next weekend. (8/7) That’s our bedroom, hanging fern living rm., middle room and kitchen/dining room. Water slowly to avoid over filling saucers.

2. We have a new fire/smoke alarm. Your hallway. See manual.

3. We have a new fire extinguisher. Tall closet in kitchen, lower front corner. Read manual.

4. Outside watering schedule is on the board by the patio door. Dan James says its not as groovy as last year’s, but adequate. He’ll sneak in to insure you keep on schedule. Don’t let him dishonor you.

5. Dan’s turntable is still out of order. My speakers are crackling. Keep the volume down.

6. Crops: Plums, zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, onions, herbs. Eat well.

7. Counter-top broiler is out of order. (cord) If you use the oven broiler, use the big broiler pan.


[Unsigned]


[Left margin addition in Helga’s handwriting:]

Plant in our bathroom, be careful not to get leather chair wet.


Silver Creek Memorial Day Horseshoe Tournament 1990

Silver Creek Memorial Day Horseshoe Tournament 1991

Silver Creek Champs!

John O and a backyard sunflower, circa 1990s

The above picture from the late 1990s shows my father in his garden with a great sunflower, which grew up out of discarded residue of Chinese herbs, following successful treatment for esophageal cancer. His doctors at the time gave his odds of survival at so slim as to be negligible. He decided he was not done with life, and pursued every avenue of treatment available, including Western and Eastern medicine, prayer and Holy Water from Lourdes.


He lived for almost another 17 years. In that time he was able to enjoy his wife, family and friends, his home and garden, and to travel. He was here to experience the devastating tragedy of the death of his younger son, but also here to meet and know several great grandchildren. I know that he was happy to have claimed that nearly two decades of life after his doctors had all but told him he was done.


John O was an amazingly strong, physical man, who loved the outdoors and working with his hands and body along with his mind. He had to contend just the same with ongoing health issues, including other cancers which he fought off. The final cancer got into his lungs and could not be stopped. He was in a steady decline for quite a while, but fortunately not in pain. He did some time in hospitals, which is where he was on Halloween when we got the final word that there was nothing more to be done, and we brought him home into hospice care.


Those last days were very difficult. I am continuing to process this event; one of the most profound experiences of my life. My father died at home with my mother and I there, and his cat and dog. He knew who we were and who he was until the very end, of this I am sure. It will always be one of my saddest joys, that I was there and able to care for my father when he needed me at the end of his life.


– D. A. Wilson, January 2014

Helga and John on their Wedding Day, August 3, 1958

Helga and John’s 50th Wedding Anniversary Party in Oakland, August 2008


“The sweetest two people ever. Awww.”  – Sally Saunders


“Yep, my Mom and Dad were quite a pair.”  – D. A. Wilson


“Such great memories.”  – Kate Blum

Mr. John O. Wilson of California and his Family

“We had many a great afternoon sharing his love of soccer on a field along the Oakland Embarcadero waterfront.”  – Bruce Henderson

Brunch at Nut Tree, California, 20th century

The old kitchen at Top of the Hill, Martinez

Squirmy

…and Rowdy

John O and Amigo

Dog


The sound of a door

He’s on his feet in an instant.

Ears erect

Tail poised to wag

Are you coming for me?

Dog of love.


#-#-#


Happy lope along the beach

Head pulled slightly to one side

By the well chewed stick grasped firmly by one end.

Every muscle alert, ready to dash away

Eyes dancing.

Dog of play.


#-#-#


Long heart felt sigh

Noisy shifting of position

To end in the same position

Chin on paws.

Forehead wrinkled.

Dog of exile.


#-#-#


Dark silent shape against the wall

In the cool sanctuary beneath the table

Stirs slightly to a nocturnal memory

A whimper, a gasp.

Rolls to his back in utter security

Dog of slumber.


#-#-#


Balmy October night

Black and white cat among the fallen apples

Let’s chase this cat up the tree.

Explosion of scent.

Confusion, bewilderment.

Dog of sorrow.


#-#-#


First light of morning

Too early to leave my sleeping bag

Dog sees and advances

Aquiver with love and morning enthusiasm

Incredible tongue finding my unguarded face

Dog of mine.


[In John O’s handwriting, unsigned and undated.]


Amigo and Mo, February 2004

Mo, February 2004

Contra Costa of California, early 21st century

Loud shirt contest, Contra Costa of California
D. A. Wilson, John O. Wilson, Tom Phipps, early 21
st century

John O and great-granddaughter Juliette, February 2004

John O and Juliette, Top of the Hill, February 2004

Helga and John in Bavaria, October 9, 2006

Bavaria, October 2006

Entertaining at The Top of the Hill, 21st century


“I love this pic.”  – Marla Powers


“Perfect picture.”  – Linda Blum

Top of the Hill, Easter 2011

Top of the Hill with niece Kate Blum

At the soccer field with Nicole Hills

Enjoying his Wedding Anniversary Party, Oakland, August 2008

Typical reaction to one of John O’s jokes

Dancing with Mutti

John O and David at the Teddy Bears Picnic in Memory of Daniel Wilson
Martinez, June 2010

Four generations at Silver Creek, Alpine County, California, July 2011

“One of my most fond John-O memories: Brenna was really pissed at me over something. I said to John-O “Apparently I’m Satan today.” He replied, “if you really get into the role, it can be quite enjoyable.” I hope you'll understand the place of admiration this is coming from when I say, in honor of John-O I'm going to be more of a bastard in 2014. The right kind of bastard of course. Wishing you peace and solitude during this profound time.”  – Tim Flynn

“Tim, I understand completely. In honor of John O, this year I’m looking for kids that need some good, clean, toughening up, to hike up to Duck Lake (wherever that may be). If they don't want to walk up the steep slippery mountain to get there, they are still ‘going to Duck Lake if I have to kick you every step of the way!’ ”  – D. A. Wilson

John O and great-grandson Logan
Antioch, California, April 2013

Celebrating Logan’s First Birthday
April 2013

Looking back from the sunset, Top of the Hill, Martinez

Four generations at The Top of the Hill, 2013

Thanksgiving Day, Oakland 2013

John O. Wilson Obituary


http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/contracostatimes/obituary.aspx?n=john-o-wilson&pid=169412282

John Ogden Wilson, born on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 1938, was the son of Robert Hugh Wilson and Mavis Clare de Blanc Wilson, and younger brother of Marilyn Wilson Lane. All preceded him in death.


John met Helga Roessler on a blind date on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 1956. They were married on August 3, 1958 and were only parted by his death at home this New Year’s Eve.


He attended a one room school house in, then, rural El Sobrante, California, and Richmond High School, and college at the University of California, Berkeley. In later years, he earned an MBA from Saint Mary’s College, California. His long distinguished career as a Civil Engineer included management of many important projects, first with Contra Costa County, and the bulk of his career with the Port of Oakland and Oakland International Airport. He served on the City of Martinez Planning Commission for 12 years, and was a founder of the Martinez Regional Land Trust (now the Muir Heritage Land Trust).


He is survived by his wife of more than 55 years, Helga Wilson, by his mother-in-law Lisbeth Roessler, by his eldest son David A. Wilson (younger son Daniel Wilson preceded him in death in 2010), by granddaughters Brenna Rose Hills-Wilson and Elizabeth Wilson, and great-grandchildren Juliette and Logan. He also leaves behind an extended family and dear friends.


John loved outdoor sports, such as soccer, running and whale boat racing. He loved backpacking in the wilderness and exploring the great American West and beyond. He loved his home and the garden he created there, and he truly loved life. He was a good man and will be sorely missed by his family and friends.

“Papa John said, son, the longest way around is the fastest way to get back home.”
– David Nelson, ‘Any Naked Eye’

Roller Coaster


I'm trapped on a roller coaster

Long slow climb

To the creation of my poem

My book

A portion of my life

Momentary achievement

Delicious triumph

The top

(I want to stay on top

To savor the triumph of

This thing I have wrought.)


Funny thing about being on top:

Every direction takes you down

Every view is out

Into nothingness.


And so against my will, the roller coaster starts downward

My creation becomes a defeat.

A collection of errors

And poor judgements

And “I should have done it better” s.

All set in an environment

Of complicated promises

And empty rewards.


Down I plunge, gathering momentum

Growing hatred for my self

And my latest work

A pain that effects not only me

But all others in my world as well.


I reach out for help

And push away a friend

Or pull him momentarily in with me

And then see him flee in terror

That he may contract the infection.


Roller coaster reaches bottom now

100 M.P.H. depression

(I don’t know this is bottom

It may be only half way down.

If we derail at this speed it will kill me.)


My creation is behind me now

Unimportant.

Accomplishment, satisfaction, triumph

All consumed.

All that remains is the panic

My God, what if we derail?


Think calmly.

What you need is a new project.

A new goal.

Big enough to cover the ashes.

(From the bottom you can see things on all sides)


And so the process starts again

Picking up ideas

Turning them around

Trying to see their other side

What happens when I finish

And start down?

All the while knowing it doesn’t matter.

The roller coaster is in me.

Not in the idea.


This state cannot endure

Not at 100 M.P.H.

A project is chosen

I commence work

At 100 M.P.H.


Up, up, up the back side of the roller coaster

Wounds from the last descent are healing now.

Healed.

All except an occasional and fleeting memory

Of the top

And the plunge down

Quickly put aside.


How much higher can I climb?

Each decent takes me lower and faster

100 M.P.H. last time.

Hard to control at 100 M.P.H.

I only need to lose it once

And so ends the ride.


Vincent van Gogh took the ride

Kept losing it at the bottom.

One time he cut off his ear.

Another time he shot himself.

(That was the last time)


When he was up he was very creative.

A painting a day.

But he lost that before the end.

Maybe when he cut off his ear.

It’s hard to be productively creative

Once you start cutting off your ear.


Some never get on the roller coaster at all.

Finish life with both ears.

No ups.

No downs.

No triumphs, satisfactions, accomplishments.

Never experience that wild ride.

No wins.

No losses.

Cream of wheat.


There must be some middle ground

Between Van Gogh and Cream of Wheat

Between roller coaster and rigid structure

A place where I can create

Without losing my ear.

The highs and the lows get higher and lower.

That’s the problem.

I can handle it at 90

Start to lose it at 100

Will never survive 150.

That’s what killed Vincent.


Maybe if I overlap my highs and lows.

Like an eight cylinder engine

Each cylinder helping to smooth out the others

So the whole machine just purrs

And pours forth creative power.


Or do I need the roller coaster

The 100 M.P.H. lows

To rush me to my next peak

To lift me to my Best?


– John O. Wilson

7/80


Dig the chaps

The young cowboy

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THE LIVING CAVE by Danny Wilson