Jacob Martin Wilson, Jr., who resided in Morgan County all of his 98 years except for the time he spent in the Pacific Theater during World War II, died Sunday, April 28, at his home off Eatonton Highway.
Mr. Wilson was born on Oct. 20, 1920, to Jacob Martin Wilson Sr. and Genie Maude Baldwin Wilson. He was married to his wife, Blanche, for 68 years.
During his life, Mr. Wilson was primarily a dairyman, but for several years he switched to chickens, operating two egg-laying houses. He loved being a farmer and was known for his inventive mind, according to his family. He never liked machinery to break, but he enjoyed the task of figuring out a work-around using common sense and ingenuity.
Mr. Wilson was a lifelong learner long before the phrase was coined. He loved to read, often consuming one or more books per week. His reading material was always an eclectic list, from a Louis Lamour western novel to an algebra textbook to the latest edition of Popular Science to the Bible, which he read through many times in his nearly 100 years of life. According to his four children, Mr. Wilson was handy to have around when they were doing math problems.
He was a fan of personal computers and enjoyed emailing family and friends. He also enjoyed the capacity to connect using Facebook. As a licensed ham radio operator he also liked to connect with people all over the globe. After macular degeneration made reading difficult, he began listening to books on tape, consuming at least one a week.
However, he was the first to admit he did not like school, perhaps because he had to leave home each week and stay with relatives in Madison while attending grade school. But he was always curious about the world and the lives of those he met.
His capacity for math and his tinkerer’s mind revealed itself to the Navy after he enlisted in July of 1942. The boy who didn’t like school became the 22-year-old man who was placed in a top-secret program that trained sailors in radar countermeasures, learning how to jam Japan’s radar. He was assigned to Brisbane, Australia, where he flew numerous missions using a jamming transmitter that he and other members of his unit built. For the last months of his time overseas, Mr. Wilson was transferred in 1946 to the 10th Air Wing in the Philippines and flew 12-hour-long surveillance missions on B-24s that were equipped with equipment to pick up Japanese radar and other electronic signals. After making 10 such assignments, he returned stateside on leave. By the time Japan surrendered, Mr. Wilson was back in Morgan County.
There is no doubt, his family noted, that his time of service during WWII was a life-changing event in many ways. Having seen the world through the lens of conflict, Mr. Wilson often told stories of his four years in the Navy, connecting the past to the present in a meaningful way. To his children he was a sage.
After returning from war, he wooed and wed a dark-haired 18-year-old beauty, Blanche Cronic, whom he met at Bethany Baptist Church. They remained married for 68 years.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Wilson is survived by four children: Rachel Harper (Bruce) of Madison, Marty Wilson (Connie) of Madison, Bertie Alligood (Leon) of Lebanon, Tennessee, and Tim Wilson (Cathy) of Katy, Texas.
His 10 grandchildren were the delights of his life. They are: Carrie Wilkins (Mark), Nathan Harper (Katie Gentry), Grant Harper and Jennifer Bonner (J.D.), all of Madison; Marc Fortson (Laurie) of Madison, Karen Thigpen (Stewart) of Statesboro and Zach Wilson (Allie Rotenburg) of Detroit; Arthur Alligood (Tiffany) of Springfield, Tennessee, and Shepherd Alligood of Nashville, Tennessee; and Kacey Wilson of Katy, Texas.
Mr. Wilson is also survived by several great-grandchildren and one great-great grandchild.
He was preceded in death by a beloved aunt, Bertie Baldwin; by his only sibling, his older sister, Harriet Wilson Wade, and by his namesake, great-grandson Jacob Taylor Wilkins.
The family wishes to express their thanks to Minnie Williams for her care and attention to Mr. Wilson. She was assigned the job by the veteran’s department but she cared for him as family.
The family also is appreciative of the assistance given by Abbey Hospice of Social Circle.
Mr. Wilson’s funeral was held Tuesday, April 30, at Bethany Baptist Church.