Jerry Wilson: Student of Nature

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J.R. “Jerry” Wilson Jr. June 21, 1925 – November 5, 2019

Jerry Wilson, aka J.R. Wilson Jr. died peacefully on November fifth, with his wife of 61 years, Nancy by his side. Jerry was born in Manhattan, New York on June 21st 1925 and grew up in Mountain Lakes, New Jersey. During World War II, the Navy put him through Engineering School at MIT which was a great opportunity for a young man, but it came at a cost. He always said ‘if my grades ever fell below a “B”, I would be sent to the front.” The students had standing orders to deploy if their grades slipped.

He received his degree in mechanical engineering from MIT in 1946. After graduation, mechanical engineers were often assigned duty on small landing craft on beachheads under combat like Omaha Beach. Jerry had graduated after the war was over. He performed mop-up operations in the South Pacific disarming and recycling military armaments and equipment.

Peter Wilson memorializes his father, writing, “Jerry was not proud of war. He did not talk about it much. He was a Berkeley Peacenik. I remember riding on his shoulders in the peace marches in the 60’s. Thousands of marchers…”

After his military service, Jerry started his family and lived most of his adult life in Berkeley, California. During his career, he worked for Xerox and Smith-Corona Marchant among other companies, before retiring to his beloved home in Briceland, California. Jerry was a life long lover of nature and steward of the land.

His love of Southern Humboldt’s wilderness is an indelible part of who Jerry Wilson was as a man. Jerry’s older son, Peter Wilson remembers, “My Dad never took me to a ‘ball game.’ That wasn’t his style. He never took me to Tahoe or skiing like the other kids in school. But I logged a thousand trips to Honeydew on Highway 101 in the 60’s and 70’s… He taught me to build things from scratch. He could build anything with 2x4s and lag bolts. Our greatest adventures were going to the hardware store and ogling tools. Back before credit-cards, he had a charge account at the hardware store -very respectable.”

His younger son, Nathan Wilson, also alludes to Jerry’s connection to nature as the essence of the man. “I remember your love of being at the Ridge. There was always a project going on there – brush to clear, water to get from the spring, the cabin to build, a bee hive to raid, or the vineyard to tend. I remember many trips to the river for a swim or going outside in rain gear during the winter to tend the burn pile. I realized later that this all came from a mixture of a love for nature, a deep curiosity for how things work, and a passion for a certain form of self-sufficiency all of which I see within myself.”

Jerry was a great contributor to his community. He, and his wife Nancy, preserved their 300 acres on Wilder Ridge through a conservation easement with Sanctuary Forest.
He served as Treasurer for Jerold Phelps Hospital, as a technical director for the Briceland Community Services District, a board member of Sanctuary Forest, and an elected official for the Briceland Volunteer Fire District. Jerry was a Ham Radio enthusiast and a member of Southern Humboldt Amateur Radio Club (SHARC).

His widow, Nancy Wilson said, “This was a dear man. He loved his family and his pets. I will miss him so.”

Jerry is survived by his wife, Nancy, sons Peter (Theresa) and Nathan (Andrea), brothers Tom and Carl Wilson, grandchildren, Katrina, Clare and Ellery Wilson, nieces, Lisa, Meg, Laura, and Linnaea Wilson and great nieces, Helen Wilson, Samantha Kutchko-Wilson, and Luna Mays-Wilson.

A memorial for Jerry will be held at Beginnings in Briceland on February 15th from 11a.m. to 1:00p.m. In the meantime, Friends and family can leave remembrances and photos at which will be live soon.



  • What a loving tribute to a wonderful man. Jerry and Nancy were my next door neighbors in Briceland for more than 25 years. As neighbors and as people, I can’t praise them more highly. I could come nowhere near the achievements of Jerry and the tireless work for various community organizations by both Jerry and Nancy. I miss them dearly. I attended Jerry’s 90th birthday celebration, where each guest was given a redwood seedling. I haven’t planted mine yet, but I have it in a container, it is thriving, and when I find the right place it will go in the ground. Every time I look at it I think of Jerry.

  • Thanks Kelly, for putting this together and getting the word out. Jerry and Nancy were deeply attached to the Southern Humboldt community and will be missed by many readers.

  • I met Jerry through our involvement with the founding and service on the board of directors in the early years of the Institute for Sustainable Forestry. He was a pillar of solidity, and essential to the survival of the organization with his knowledge and application of financial management as treasurer. Years after we both left the ISF board due to term limits, he allowed me to recruit him for the board of the Mattole Restoration Council, despite his advanced age at that point. Throughout the years, his big, warm heart was gifted to me in a friendship I cherished and enjoyed. He was truly a well respected and loved community role model. RIP Jerry!!

  • Jerry was a wonderful man. He was a prime mover on the formation of the Briceland Community Service District and the first Chief water Operator for the district, a job that I now hold. I worked with Jerry on the water plant from 1992 until he retired and learned much under his leadership and dedication to keeping the water flowing and the State regulators happy. He was a friend, a great neighbor, and mentor to me and I will miss him. My deep sympathies to Nancy, Pete, and Nathan.

  • Both he and Nancy were also well known, award winning daffodil breeders, and won awards for their flowers each year in Fortuna.

    I spent many Sunday evenings at their house, listening to Jerry and my mother debate and argue about whatever topic was hot that week.

    He will be missed.

  • I am glad to have had the pleasure of working with Jerry and Nancy. Many good memories, many good times had. Love to his family.

  • I am so sorry for your loss.
    Roland loved you dearly

  • 🕯🕯RIP JERRY🇺🇸🕊🕊

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