Shared by Rosanne Catron on 10th November 2015

Thought I would share a story I posted on the SuperTopo thread about my dad:

I remember a few years ago November when my dad still owned Eastside Sports, an employee told a customer on the phone that our winter hours were 7 days a week until 5:00pm, and they could come on by during those hours and pick up their rental equipment. Problem was, the day scheduled in the notes happened to be Thanksgiving Day, one of the only days of the year Eastside Sports was closed. My dad worried and fretted about what to do, because these customers were planning on picking up their rental equipment to go on a big adventure, and he thought their whole trip would be derailed if they stopped by that day and Eastside Sports wasn't open as promised. Finally, he posted a note on the door that said something along the lines of, "CUSTOMER NAME, you made reservations to pick up your rental equipment today, we are closed, but call store owner James Wilson." Sure enough, an hour or so before Thanksgiving dinner, they called, and my dad ran down to the store, opened the doors especially for them, and made sure they had their equipment and were on their way. He came home jazzed about the experience and the customer's upcoming adventure. For me, this epitomized my dad as a business man - genuine excitement about customer's adventures and and caring about every single individual who stepped through the doors. I know Eastside Sports still carries that spirit today.

This story has been on my mind a lot lately as Thanksgiving approaches. Of course I miss my pops so much. He was completely healthy and had recently been to the doctor for checkups. The team at Renown in Reno said they did not think he could have done anything different to prevent this stroke. All of which is to say, get out there in honor of my dad. He loved the Eastside and he loved being outside, especially with family and friends.

Climb on!

My Favorite Cousin

Shared by Ken Wolfe on 26th September 2015

Growing up in the west when most of our family was still on the east coast we never had the huge family holiday get together.  We did though have a small band of the Wilsons living in the central valley of California.  We would always spend Thanksgiving with them, either in L.A or at their house. I was always enthralled with the knowledge of natural world that they all possessed.  The older brothers were never around but the stories and adventures of one in particular always grabbed my attention.  James was always in the mountains or climbing something.  As the years went on, Wheeler and Wilsons was opened, and my love of mountaineering and climbing grew.  James became a legend for me and someone I had to meet.  As soon as I was working and had my own vehicle I was determined to go to Bishop and meet James and Kay and now little Rosanne.    I still remember that first phone conversation.  After introducing myself and saying I wanted to come up and meet him finally.  He said sure let’s go climbing.  I tried to get up there as much as possible and I was always welcome if they were around.  Being a chef in training may have helped too.  Throughout the years, I have climbed with many people and I have never been so comfortable climbing with anyone as I was with James.  Not just because he was my cousin but I have never meet such a calm relaxed and grounded person in my life.  He was always in tune with the natural world around him and had that unique sense of humor that was characteristic of the Wilsons.  I was recently telling my girls the next time we go to LA,  we have to make a trip to the most beautiful part of CA and visit the Wilsons of the Eastern Sierra.  Don’t worry Kay and Rosanne we will still come for a visit but James you will be greatly missed. 

Shared by Barbara Kelley on 28th July 2015

Standing next to James, Kay, Rosie, Chris and BirdBob on the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica. This Scarlet Macaw was spectacular, but every bird we saw, no matter where, was special in one way or another.  Even the invasive Eurasian Collared-Dove, so common now where we live, got a favorable comment from James when no one else could muster one up.  "They're really handsome," he said.  "No matter our opinion of what damage they may be doing on the wrong continent, they're still handsome."

All critters great and small

Shared by Julie Zela on 28th July 2015

I recall Rosanne loving all critters! I also remember James and Kay trying to keep up with and accommodate Rosanne's interest and desire to take care of any little animal/bird that crossed their path. I got a phone call from James attempting to do just that after they found a certain species of small mammal in their garage on Willow Street Rosanne desperately wanted to take in and make her own, but James was quite uncomfortable and adamant about not keeping! He inquired if I would be able to foster the little guy on the condition Rosanne could come visit anytime. We made those arrangements and indeed Rosanne would come over for her visitation rights and point out things like earwax needing to be cleaned out and certain delicacies needing to be added to the critter's diet! Remembering still makes me laugh!

Much love to Kay, Rosanne, Chris & Todd and everybody touched by this inspirational, very special man. Farewell James, with very fond memories and deep respect.


Shared by Rosanne Catron on 28th July 2015

When I was a kid, I was obsessed with bugs. I would pick up butterfly and beetle wings and stash them in boxes, and I wanted to be an entomologist when I grew up. My dad started referring to me as "bug," a nickname I retained into adulthood. And while I am not an entomologist, I still love insects and the life that you find when you slow down and look at the minutiae beneath your feet. My son Ansel seemed to have inherited this interest, as he shrieks with joy whenever he encounters bees, butterflies, or especially ants.

This morning I was especially missing my dad, and really wishing I could call him and update him about my life. While I was driving into work, I started to talk to him (out loud), as if he were sitting next to me in the car. Okay, I looked strange, but it was helping me process.

“Hey dad,” I said, “Ansel has started trying to say ‘ee-i-ee-i-oh’ when we sing Old McDonald, it’s the cutest thing ever. Also, I am back at work and it’s hard but good. I’ve been gardening a lot and there is the prettiest little eggplant that will be ready to harvest soon. Miss you dad, and I really love you.”

Having a one-sided conversation with my dad left me feeling even more empty and sad. The light turned green, and I looked up to see the license plate, “ILUVBUG” on the car right in front of me. And not on a VW bug, either.

I couldn't help it. My heart skipped a beat. Even this skeptic felt like the fates had aligned for my dad to tell me he loved me, and to call me bug one more time.

Miss you, dad.

Shared by Rosanne Catron on 27th July 2015

My dad had a tendency to look out for me, his family, and friends, sometimes to the point of annoyance. As a child, we'd be on a neighborhood walk and a car would be coming, and he'd holler, "car!" in this bellowing voice that made me cringe. When we were out backpacking, he'd take forever picking the perfect site that was beautiful, comfy, and safe from any rotted trees and cliffy areas. I remember on hikes anytime there was an area where I could slip, he'd point out the "little rocks on big rocks." Especially as a teenager, sure of my invincibility, I'd think, "got it, dad," and roll my eyes.

One backpacking trip we were stopped for lunch, leaning against an old log, relaxing in the shade of some trees. All of a sudden dad said, "These cottonwood trees look a little creaky, I think we should move." With a weary sigh I picked up my backpack and we found a new spot, me grumbling all the while at dad's paranoia. About 1/2 hour later we heard a huge crash. Running back to our former lunch spot, we discovered a huge tree branch had fallen exactly where we were eating lunch, covering our footprints. It would have certainly hurt us badly if we were still sitting there.

Now that I have my own kid, I see how difficult it is to balance a sense of adventure and wonder for the outdoors with the desire to protect your child. My mom and pops did an amazing job with this balance. I thought of my dad last night as I walked down the street with my twenty month old son, admiring the flowers, bugs, and pine cones along the way, and yes, occasionally hollering "car!" if he wandered too far into the street. I miss you pops. Hope I can be 1/2 the parent you were.

Shared by Barbara Kelley on 22nd July 2015

After a hot and humid day seeking birds by hiking in streams and faint trails in dense tropical rainforest, we relaxed with cold drinks and hammocks on an inviting porch.  James relaxed, and relaxed......

Dumped in the jungle

Shared by Michael Prather on 22nd July 2015

One evening in muggy Chan Chich, Belize the Wilsons and the Prathers decided to take one of the lodge's golf carts out for a drive - anything to get the air moving and cool off a bit. So I drove while James and Kay rode behind facing backwards. There were exciting things along the road that evening like paraques, but we especially enjoyed the glowing eyed spiders that were everywhere when you scanned your flashlight along the verge. When we were ready to return I attempted a three point turn on the raised concrete road. It seemed straight forward enough, but I backed up a bit too far and down the concrete edge we went, stopping with a thump that launched James and Kay into the jungle where every plant had spines. There were voices of surprise and protest, but they gamely crawled back out and helped push the cart up onto the road.  We laughed all the way home. We always laughed.

UC Berkeley Days

Shared by Roy Wetzel on 21st July 2015

As with so many others, James’ friendship greatly enhanced my life.  Although much was about the outdoors and nature, James’ diverse interests are well known.

While attending Berzerkeley, one Wednesday evening James prodded, “Let’s go to a concert in the city.”  As a Motown guy who recently arrived from NJ, I had not yet succumbed to the allure of hard rock.  And in line with my image as a serious student, I declined stating I had to study.

Ha ha; after some enthusiastic coaxing coupled with “It was for a good cause” (the Peoples Park Bail Bond Benefit), off we went.  Community activism and friendly, heartfelt persuasion were already at work.

Probably we drove over in his white rear engine Corvair station wagon, that iconic car well to do students aspired to own.  My $75, 1957 Plymouth that brought me to CA would stop only when pulling hard on the emergency brake lever, and James found that a bit too exciting one day when we were negotiating the hills of Berkeley.

The Winterland Ballroom was thick with people and smoke (although I do not recall a trace of tobacco).  Carlos Santana, the Credence Clearwater Revival, Grace Slick and the Airplane, the Dead and others wowed us for hours with what are now classics such as Oye Coma Va and Ball n Chain.  I bet you can picture how James gyrated with thrills non-stop (and I succumbed to Rock).

It was only weeks later, after the end of the spring term, that we made our way to King’s Canyon in that iconic vehicle, and James further enhanced my life by introducing me to backpacking and the Sierra. 

James, thanks again for all….

Shared by Dan Asay on 18th July 2015

The news hit me hard.  Had to go to the mountains today, into which the veins of our contentment run strongest-- for most of us, him certainly.  I know this from all the time we spent there together, mostly in expeditions of two, James and I, in the heyday of our climbing days.  Comes to mind a several day trip we took up George Creek canyon, one of the great declivities of the Sierra, to climb some obscure pinnacle.  I don't remember much, anything actually, of the climb.  But an incident during our arduous hike in is still vivid in my mind.  We were mired, off route and exhausted, in a vast thicket of hat-high willows such to eat the heart out of any man.

James had a chemistry amenable to mind bending substances, which could be equally concocted from the native juices in his own head, causing displays of memorable antics.  How were we to know what caused those occaisional erruptions of merriment and that loud belly laugh at parties and potlucks from this otherwise sober stalwart and community pillar.  Was it drink or an endorphin release of a logjam of backed up exuberance?  But the story continues...

After a time James gleefully produced his newly purchased oversized Swiss Army Knife and unhinged the saw blade.  "I knew this would come in handy someday!"-- and began maniacally cutting willow stalks.  As worked progressed he became more  elated.  "I'm a lumberjack and I don't care..."  Willows toppled.  We escaped the thicket in due time but he could scarcely quit sawing.  He made us some robust tent stakes and we camped nearby.  A mirthful camp as I recall.  I haven't thought about
this for years. 

These were the old days.  We had moved to the eastside not too long apart, not knowing each other.  He consented to give me a job, and we worked together.  Over the years James became a high profile figure here, with all the rewards and burdens that entails.  But I'm beginning to notice that we recall an old friend not so much by the high points of his life but by the less noticed spaces between: personal gifts, in quiet interludes.  I'm left tonight counting those gifts, the times between. 

Cinnamon Teal

Shared by Rosie Howard on 17th July 2015

One of James' favorite birds was Cinnamon Teal. He could often be heard singing (you gotta think Neil Young's "Cinnamon Girl"),  "I could be happy, the rest of my life, with a Cinnamon Teal."  With this as inspiration, I rewrote the lyrics.

Once a month us birder folks would gather for Bird Study Group at Tom and Jo Heindel's house in Big Pine. This was the opening night venue for the "Cinnamon Teal Choristers," James and Kay Wilson, Chris and Rosie Howard, and Barbara Kelley. I truly wish I had a video (without the audio) of the five of us practicing in the car from Bishop to Big Pine. We performed with gusto much to the delight of our birder friends, but were never booked in a different venue.


A wing of blue feathers, when you take to flight,
When you are up-ended, your butt is not white,
You're my Cinnamon Teal

You females get confused with Blue-winged it's true,
But you've got no eyeline and surely they do,
You're my Cinnamon Teal

The first ones to come back alone in the spring,
No beauty do you lack, a "WOW" do you bring,
You're my Cinnamon Teal

I could be happy the rest of my life with a Cinnamon Teal.

Some crazy ski tour

Shared by Todd Vogel on 16th July 2015

We did a ski tour somewhere around 1995, probably a bit earlier. Great snow, great weather. I was probably scouting for a guided trip coming up the next week. One of our group bailed at Taboose Pass. James and I skied him out to snow line and climbed back up to the pass, and continued heading north. Great trip. Here we are climbing out of Palisades Lakes Basin early in the morning (hence the crampons). 

James finds a perfect campsite at Isberg Lake

Shared by Chris Howard on 16th July 2015

August 2011: Wilsons, Howards, Hoffmanns - We were on day four of a week-long backpack from Devil's Postpile to Yosemite Valley, approaching Isberg Lake late in the day.  Looking for the a good campsite for the group, James and I decided to split up.  We'd be within sight, but perhaps not earshot, so we devised an arm signal scheme: hold your arms out at a low angle for a low grade campsite, hold your arms at a high angle for a high grade campsite.  We start searching and glancing across the lake at each other: low, medium, low, low, medium.  Then I see James throw down his hiking poles, stand straight, smile, and hold his arms high up over his head. He'd found the perfect campsite.

Blurry in Australia

Shared by Barbara Kelley on 16th July 2015

Blurry but delightful photo of James and Kay while on our 5 week birding trip with Tom and Jo Heindel, Bob and Susan Steele, and others.  We were having so much fun! Atherton tablelands.


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