Obituary of Laurel Wilson
Laurel was born at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington DC at the end of World War II. When her father was discharged from the army, her parents, William D. Wilson and Norma N. Wilson moved back to Lakewood, Ohio. Laurel grew up and attended public schools in Lakewood, the eldest of three sisters. She received her BA in elementary education from Ashland College in 1968. Her curiosity about her place of birth drew her back to Washington DC as a VISTA volunteer after graduation. After a year or so with VISTA she moved to Atlanta and earned an MS in library science from Atlanta University in 1974.
In the spirit of the times Laurel then set off across country, first to Boston and then westward. Along the way she did odd jobs, one of which was driving a combine in Montana to harvest wheat. She settled in Santa Cruz in the late-seventies and held a variety of jobs including Associate Transportation Planner for Santa Cruz County. There she especially enjoyed promoting the safe use of bicycles. She also worked at Bonny Doon Elementary School as librarian and at the Santa Cruz Farmer’s Market. At the market she sold baskets from Ghana and helped to set up and run the SNAP program.
Laurel loved to bicycle and took several bun-busting bike trips to Montana, Idaho, Oregon and Washington state, some with the Santa Cruz County Bicycling Club. In the early days of KUSP she hosted a weekly jazz program, “Monkey Business.” She liked to travel and benefited other travellers by helping to found the Santa Cruz Youth Hostel. She went across the U.S. by train several times and visited any national and state parks within reach. She loved nature, plants and animals, especially cats. Wherever she lived her home and yard benefited from her green thumb. In addition to these activities, Laurel loved contra dancing and frequently attended the dances in Santa Cruz, Felton and as far as San Francisco.
Laurel was politically active in progressive causes and labor unions. In VISTA she worked with mothers on welfare and recollected being clunked by a police baton during a sit-in for welfare rights. She believed in public schools and public libraries and could often be found at the Santa Cruz Public Library. She loved to read and turned her hand to writing poetry. She never attempted to publish her work, or even to show it to friends, but it’s never too late:
Knowing each other for two months,
I have just now remembered a past knowing,
A future telling.
The simple movement of commonplace activity,
You carrying groceries to your car,
Your brightness in the late summer dusk.
Moving closer and almost thinking, almost moving
To find out who you are,
Thankful for another chance.
Laurel Ann Wilson
Laurel died from long-term complications of Type 1 Diabetes, which was diagnosed at age 7. She will be sorely missed by her sisters Carol Forsythe (Peter) and Mary Wilson, her cousins Nancy and Mark Kohler and her many friends in Santa Cruz and elsewhere.
Friends are invited to share their memories of Laurel with her sisters on Sunday, December 2, from 4-6 pm at her apartment: 107 Sycamore St, #101, Santa Cruz. In lieu of flowers donations in Laurel’s name may be made to the Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter: www.scanimalshelter.org