General Robert Maris Wilson
My dad, General Robert Maris Wilson, or Bob as most people called him, passed away on Monday at the age of 92. He had been in failing health for the last few months and moved on peacefully.
My dad was a quiet and reserved man. He wrote those words about himself in four pages of biographic information he provided to us for the purpose of writing an obituary. He was a planner. He was never unprepared. Even in the end.
His greatest accomplishment was the epic love affair that he carried on with my mom for almost 65 years. They were made for each other. She brought out the social side of him. He provided for her and all of us. You could always count on my dad and we did. This is my mom and my dad at our wedding.
My dad was an Army man. He was born into an Army family, raised on Army bases, attended West Point, and spent 33 years of active duty in the Army. He spent the last decade of his Army service at West Point, where he ran the Department of Mechanical Engineering. My dad was also a teacher. A terrific one.
I remember sitting in on one of my dad’s engineering classes at West Point during my college years. The cadets sat in a square. My dad stood at the front of the room. At the start of class, he told four cadets to “take boards” and they each worked out one of the homework problems in front of the rest of the class and then took turns explaining how they solved the problem. My dad would interject when appropriate. To this day, I have not seen a better method of teaching by doing.
He also had a distinguished military career. In the four-page biography he gave us, he dropped this little bit “During the last half of his tour (in Vietnam), he headed a small group of officers assembled at the direction of General Abrams to plan for the initial withdrawal of U.S. forces from Vietnam.” That was my dad. When you needed to figure out how to get an Army out of somewhere, he was your man.
I love this photo of him retiring at West Point, surrounded by his beloved Corps of Cadets. Standing straight as a rod.
His quiet, reserved nature, and his failing hearing, and ultimately failing mind late in life, always made it hard to be close to him. That said, I always knew that he loved me.
Losing a loved one during the pandemic is hard. We could not see him at the end. But I was able to visit my parents once during the pandemic, on my mom’s 90th birthday. This is the last time I saw my dad and how I will remember him. Maybe it is best that way.
I will miss you dad. I love you.