Before Vicki and Don Wilson moved to the valley 30 years ago, Don had already retired from two careers. First he served in the US Air Force, completing missions in Korea and two tours in Viet Nam. For most of his Air Force time, Don resided outside the continental USA. Finding himself in Alaska as he retired from the Air Force in 1972, Don then accepted the job of Chief Enforcement Officer for the Department of Labor, State of Alaska. Vicki also worked for the state in the Workers’ Compensation division. The two met and married in 1981.
Don spent most of his growing up years in the Toledo, Ohio, area. His maternal grandparents had immigrated there following their flight from the Irish potato famine. He spent 1940-45 with his older sister in Southern California, returning to Toledo to graduate from high school and then enlist in the Air Force. As a youngster Don loved to study and observe birds; flying seems to be a unifying theme in his life!
Theirs is a blended family. Vicki’s two daughters, Jill and Amber Stokes are both professional women living away from the valley. Jill is a cartographer detailing the St. John River Water Authority in Palatka, Florida, while Amber is an Information Technician at UCLA. Don’s son Sean will soon be a neighbor as he is building a home just across the street from Vicki and Don. Don’s daughter Shannon Dunham lives in Anchorage.
Don is a walking-talking history of the valley for the past 30 years! While Vicki managed the Community Center from 1992 to 2007, Don was active in every community event or plan you can imagine. He served on the Chamber of Commerce for years, and takes pride in his continuing Masonic membership. He’s rightfully proud of all the ADA ramps that dot the valley, most of them the work of the Masonic Brotherhood. He remembers when there was a Kiwanis club here in Twisp; primarily a singing group, this service club was way ahead of its time — having a woman member!
Don shared a favorite Kiwanis story about the lighted cross up on the hill and how it got there. After trucking the huge structure up there and burying the post 6 feet in the ground, it was time to throw the switch to light up the stop light bulbs covered in clear glass which adorn the cross. Switch thrown, the glare was overwhelming, Don reports, and the men decided they’d need to remove every other bulb!
As Valley residents considered ways to entice medical professionals to the Valley, Don accepted the challenge to form a 501(c)3, not-for-profit organization, called the Methow Valley Health Alliance. To act as the Board of Directors of this fledgling alliance Don assembled a Who’s Who of the movers and shakers of the valley and beyond. Having recruited for a physician to move to the Methow, the group received two applicants within ten months! When you see Don out and about, ask him to tell you of the wooing to the Valley of beloved Doctor Jensen.
The MVHA boasts a litany of improvements to the health and well-being of our Valley, many made possible through grant writing. Working with Brewster Hospital, the Alliance upgraded ER facilities, bought new equipment, provided a health science lab at Winthrop PT, in addition to converting the heating system at the Community Center so that it burns waste oil instead of coal.
One of Don’s dreams was to see an Assisted Living facility here in Twisp. Having obtained a HUD grant, the Alliance members thought all pieces of the puzzle were in place to break ground in 2011. However, the bank planning to loan the money fell prey to the Bernie Madoff scam and closed suddenly, wiping out seven years of planning. Never to be deterred, Don notes with pride, “Well, we didn’t get the facility, but we did get Methow at Home!”
Don is an early riser and loves running into old and new friends for a chat at the bakery, or at Hanks, or at the Winthrop Clinic. His only regret — arthritis keeps him from gardening. He loved his work maintaining the greenhouse for the Community School.
When you see Don, just ask a question about one of his memories, and you’ll have the rich experience of sharing in the warm history of our Valley, from a man who played a huge part in that history.