Northwest NEWS

March 27, 2000

Local News

Obituary: Major John Bushrod Wilson, Jr., USMC (retired), 1922-2000

Maj. John Wilson

Major John B. Wilson, Jr., Excecutive Officer (center) at Camp Pendleton, California, 1959. The little boy, Boodie Myers, now of Bellevue, is asking "Where's my Dad?" (He's standing behind Wilson.)

   Major John Bushrod Wilson, Jr., USMC (retired), a man equally at home at a rock concert or in the quiet of his private memories, died at Evergreen Hospital in Kirkland on March 1 at age 77. Courage, humor, and tenacity were the defining characteristics of this quiet, unassuming Woodinville resident, whose life mirrored the drama of the 20th Century.

   Tried in battle, by temperament, Wilson was a poet, a family man, teacher, and nurturer for the careers of his famous daughters, Ann and Nancy Wilson of the rock group "Heart." When a stroke in 1978 confined him to a wheelchair for the remainder of his life, his legacy to those who knew him was characteristically Marine, "We carry on."

   "Dotes," his daughters lovingly called him, was born April 8, 1922, at Bremerton Naval Shipyard, the youngest of two sons of Marine General John Bushrod Wilson, Sr. and Beatrice Lamoreaux of Oregon. General Wilson had distinguished himself in World War II by going ashore with his troops during the landing at Iwo Jima in 1945. The younger Wilson was soon to join his father in the Pacific.

   Following his graduation from Officers Training School at Quantico, Virginia, Lt. Wilson shipped out with the 3rd Marines to Guam. There he was critically wounded in battle, a Jeep explosion that resulted in a yearlong hospitalization in Hawaii. It earned him the first of his two Purple Hearts.

   Wilson's young bride and lifelong mate (Wilson married Lois Dustin of Oregon City, Oregon in 1944) recalled her relief when he finally shipped home aboard the "Big E," the U.S.S. Enterprise. Gratefully, she thought, he could resume his career from the relative safety of home. Lois's own waiting during the war had been filled with anxious hope and riveting on ships at Swan Island near Portland, Oregon. Now she could devote her time and attention to her survivor husband and soon-to-arrive daughters.

   Lynn, the eldest, was born in 1946 during a three-year tour of duty in Panama. Ann, Heart's lead singer, was born at the Naval Hospital in San Diego, California, in 1950; Nancy Wilson, the youngest of the three, at the Presidio Army Hospital, San Francisco, in 1954.

   In 1950, 15 days after Ann's birth, Wilson, then a Captain, was shipped to Korea at the start of that conflict. Two years into the war, and on patrol behind North Korean lines, Captain Wilson's life was again endangered. Wounded in battle, he was found by rescuing Marines buried beneath fallen comrades. Lois Wilson received her second hand-delivered yellow telegram from the Marines, Captain Wilson his second Purple Heart.

   By 1954, there were growing rumblings about the war in French Indochina. The Vietnam War was on the horizon, and once again, the Wilson family was shipped to the Far East, this time for a three-year tour of duty in Taiwan. Daughter Lynn, then a child, recalls playing war games in Taiwan's warm rains, air raid drills, and her dad's loving assurances to his wife and three daughters ("3 goodies," he called them) that all would be well.

   In 1957, the family was ordered back to Camp Pendleton, and in 1960 to Seattle, where Wilson served as a Marine recruiting officer. Wilson used the time to gain more credits at the University of Washington in education, his earlier major at Oregon State University, and to prepare for retirement. The Wilson family settled in Bellevue, where they remained until their move to Kirkland in the late 1970s.

   By 1962, Wilson was teaching English literature for the Bellevue School system. English literature, poetry, and music filled Wilson's life. Yet he had time for the many teenagers who gravitated to his Bellevue home (three daughters is a powerful lure) and for the Bellevue Congregational Church (United Church of Christ), where he and his wife became active with the Youth Group.

   Bellevue was not insulated from the controversies of the '60s. The Wilson family, Ann and Nancy now with guitars in hand, participated along with their Congregational minister in Vietnam War marches and other political activities that attracted a small group of churchgoers into a lifelong circle of friends. Rev. Lincoln Y. Reed (retired) and his wife Barbara, especially, would preside over every marriage and other major Wilson family event since, including John Wilson's recent private memorial service.

   Wilson is survived by his wife Lois; daughters Lynn, Ann, and Nancy; and grandchildren, Tohn and Reed Keagle, Marie and Dustin Wilson, Tohn Keagle, Jr., and William and Curtis Crowe; his elder brother, James P. Wilson, and nephews Philip and David Wilson. The family asks that instead of flowers, memorial contributions be sent to a favorite charity.