Robert (Bob) Russel Wilson, 76, of Talent, Ore. checked out of this system December 19, 2013 in his temporary lodging at Wynwood Assisted Living in Medford, Ore. He was the Director of the Ashland Library for 30 years until his retirement in 2002, played with the Rogue Valley Symphony for 25 years, and was on the Talent City Council. After a lengthy illness with Parkinson's Disease, he finally came to rest with his loving wife, Claire, and faithful hound, Georgia, at his side.
Bob was born to Harry Russell and Dorothy Eleanor (Shockney) Wilson in Milwaukee, Wis. June 2, 1937. His music ability earned him a scholarship to Lawrence University, studying for a career as a solo violinist. A wonderful experience he treasured was playing with the Chicago Fine Arts Quartet.
Bob Wilson's head wore many different hats (literally and figuratively) throughout his life. He was devoted to public/community service and he dedicated his life to a commitment of raising awareness of artistic, educational, and physical needs of communities, towns, and neighborhoods. Further, as a musician he knew the arts as important to the enrichment of a community's quality of life.
After his marriage to Gretchen (Lee) the two moved to Orleans, France, where they adopted a daughter, the late Michele Andrea Gibson. In 1967, Bob and Gretchen adopted Erik Russell, who survives and lives in Los Angeles, Calif. Moving to Ashland. Ore. in 1972 was the start of the Wilsons' love for the Rogue Valley. Bob was hired as librarian for the Ashland Library while sporting his looong ponytail, bib overalls, his generous smile, and eagerness to address the needs of the whole community. To that end, he began the Ashland Teen Center in the basement of the library. He believed the library should be an important community center where people meet, help, and get to know their neighbors. To keep the rooms warm he split wood for the fireplace when the boiler was ornery, snaked the plumbing when the toilets overflowed, and mopped when the hillside springs flooded the basement.
In the late 1970s the Wilson's went their separate ways and he married Janet Meyer. Michele, Jan's two teenage daughters, Lisa and Karen (and for several years Karen's friend, Jana Toney), made for an extended family.
Later on, in 1986, Gretchen introduced Bob to her friend and clay artist, Claire Barr. Claire and Bob were married in Lithia Park and became a couple that was inseparable for the next 27 years.
Bob continued his involvement in Library government and the Oregon and American Library Associations. He was one of the first Youth Symphony board members, on the Arts Council of Southern Oregon, and the Greenway Board. He played his fiddle (violin) song-stories at any opportunity and played them for the children at the annual Children's Festival at the Britt Grounds.
His experience with the planning, design and function of the new Ashland library was invaluable when he was involved in construction of the Talent Library, Talent Civic Center, Talent City Hall and while he served on the Talent Urban Renewal Board. Other civic involvements included election to the Talent City Council, Greenway Board, and numerous committees within Talent's city structure.
His love of music followed him all these years and he participated in more than just the Rogue Valley Symphony. He played viola with the Rogue opera, Rogue Musical Theater out of Grants Pass, Ore., the Bach Festival in Chelan, Wash., and was involved from the beginning in the Redding Symphony. Violas were rare in the valley and he shared his joy of music with many small groups.
Bob and Claire were profoundly in love, and proved that the Third time was a Charm. They traveled in Eastern and Central Europe, the Fjords of Alaska and Norway, Iceland, Asia, Mexico and the U.S. and shared each other's delight in the new and exotic and the excitement of seeing a total eclipse of the sun on a porch overlooking the Black Sea. Friends and family knew their relationship was special.
In 2000, Bob was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, but over the years his symptoms fit those of Lewy Body Dementia. He descended very quickly towards the end.
He is survived by his brother, Donald Wilson; son, Eric Wilson; and wife, Claire Barr-Wilson.
Toward the end, in his dementia, he was reliving and recounting some of his successes. He was definitely HERE at the end, then he wasn't and then he stopped breathing. Such a fine man. How much he is loved. He wanted a party. A now-for-something-completely-different-part y. We'll let you know when and where!
Donations in his name can be made to the Friends of the Ashland Library.