Philip O. Wilson. August 13, 1932 - July 3, 2019.
Phil Wilson was born at home in Tulare California on August 13, 1932 to Louisa Katherine Sinwell Wilson and Harold Edward Wilson. He attended schools in Tulare, Visalia, Hanford, Porterville, and graduated from Porterville High School in 1950. Phil always said he had the ideal childhood growing up in small towns during World War II, riding his bicycle everywhere, going to the plunge every day in the summer, and playing tennis on school teams and in community tournaments. Phil attended San Jose State where he sang in the SAE fraternity chorus. During college summers, he worked for Southern California Edison at Huntington and Florence Lakes, performing maintenance on dams and serving as a courier for the mountain offices.
After graduation from San Jose State, Phil traveled to Europe by freighter. He toured Central Europe and Italy by bicycle and train, building memories he would reminisce about the rest of his life.
Phil entered the US Army upon return from Europe. He served in the Counter Intelligence Corps in Washington DC, an assignment that never required him to wear a uniform. During his enlistment he married Barbara Jean Dill. Upon completion of his service obligation, Phil and Barbara Jean returned to California. Before their marriage ended, they had 3 children: Karen, David, and Maureen.
Phil accepted a teaching position with the Merced Union High School District. He was among the first teachers at the original El Capitan High School. In 1963, Phil was hired at the newly founded Merced College. He spent the rest of his career there as an English teacher and academic advisor. Phil was the first tennis coach, the first yearbook advisor, and the first drama club advisor. He was known for his high academic standards, his dry sense of humor and quick wit, his great clothes and his even better looks. He played tennis in the community and spent many happy hours playing in singles and doubles events at the tennis courts at Applegate Park and Merced College.
Single in the 1980s, Phil fell in love with and courted Susan Walsh, the college librarian. Across the next thirty-three years Phil and Susan shared an amazing romance, a charmed marriage, a life filled with love, literature, laughter, gardening, adventure, travel, tears and joy. Together they traveled to dozens of national parks, towns, and cities across the United States. They returned again and again to the Asilomar Beach where their love first took hold.
Toward the end of his teaching career and during retirement, Phil fully developed his passion for gardening. When he moved to a new home in Merced, he landscaped every inch of the yard. His flower garden bloomed with as many as 40 different varieties, represented by more than 500 plants. He particularly loved Double Delight and Mr. Lincoln roses and lavender and orange lantana. He developed a succulent and cactus garden in the shade of the back-yard birch trees, a garden that continues to flourish. He shared his plants and talents and hundreds of bouquets with neighbors and friends.
Phil passed quietly in the comfort of his home, holding the hand of his beloved wife Susan and surrounded by caring friends. He was pre-deceased by his mother and father Harold and Louisa Wilson; his dear aunt and uncle Catherine and Clancy Cassell; and the mother of his children, Barbara Jean Wilson. His loving pet and best dog Susie had already made the journey across the rainbow bridge and was waiting for him.
He is survived by his wife Susan; by his daughter Karen and husband Jeff Reed, children Megan and Brandon; his son David, wife Suzanne Wilson and children Montana and Beck and step-children Nicolas and Jesse; his daughter Maureen, husband Jay Hensler and children Jonah and Jordan. In addition, he is survived by half-brother John Armstrong; cousins Tina Small and Matt Cassell; best friends Mike and Cathy McMillan; college friend Randall Hill; dear friends and caregivers Darlene Nelson and Stephanie Nelson; dogs Sammy, Fisher, and Shaq; and cat Charlie.
Phil’s wife and friends want to thank Dr. John Paik-Tesch, Dr. Mani Nallasivan, and Bristol Hospice for their caring hearts and exceptional care of Phil.
A Celebration of Life for Phil Wilson will be held July 20, 2019 at 2 p.m. at the United Methodist Church in Merced, 899 Yosemite Parkway. Memorial donations would be welcomed for the Friends of the Merced County Library; United Way - Literacy for All; or the United Methodist Church.
If you can join us, please be sure to wear bright colors that reflect the vibrant palette from the flowers that Phil grew and loved for so many years.