Inducted: October 26, 2005
His great grandfather pioneered in Harwich Township in 1860 and in 1868 built a substantial brick family home, a landmark for many years at Charing Cross.
His father, G. Harry Wilson was awarded the MBE in World War II for his work in helping the Canadian government implement strategies to increase farm productivity. Through those difficult years, an embattled Britain depended on Canada and its other Dominions for food.
John R. Wilson was born in Harwich, son of G. Harry Wilson and the former Edith Johnston. He received his elementary education at Charing Cross; his secondary, at Chatham Vocational School, in Chatham. From the first he was interested in the farm organizations that held out hope of a better deal for farmers.
When Kent County still had a local beet sugar refinery, he was a Director, later the Vice-Chairman of the Ontario Sugar Beet Growers Marketing Board. Mr. Wilson was President of the Kent County Cattlemen’s Association; and a Director of the Kent County Vegetable Growers’ Association.
Provincially, his influence was recognized when he served on the Ontario Farm Products’ Marketing Board, and its successor, the Ontario Farm Products Commission, umbrella bodies that have supervised all agricultural marketing boards in this province.
He has also served as a Director on the Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame Association, at Milton. Locally, he has been an interested member of the Kent County Land Division Committee.
Mr. Wilson has been active in his community and in his church. He has served as President of the Blenheim Rotary Club, and is a Paul Harris fellow. When his grandchildren were baptized, it meant that six generations of Wilsons had worshipped at Historic Christ Church in Chatham. Mr. Wilson has been both People’s Warden and Rector’s Warden, and has served on the Board of Management of that Church. Another member said of him, “John is conscientious in everything he does!”
Mr. Wilson married the former Dorothy Balmer on August 29th, 1953, in St. Andrew’s United Church, Chatham. They have two children, Jeffrey, who is a farmer like his father, and is married to Jennifer Thompson, from another prominent agricultural family; and Jill, married to Terry Dickinson. There are six grandchildren: Teri (Ryan) Jenner, Chatham, and Adam Dickinson, at home; and Patricia Wilson, a student at McMaster University; Rosemary Wilson, at University of Ottawa; and John and Matthew Wilson, at home. Mr. Wilson had three siblings: Geraldine Wilson, deceased; Agnes Masters, Niagara Falls; and George Wilson, of Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Mr. Wilson has won the respect and admiration of many citizens, both rural and urban. One associate praised him as “very community-minded”. “You see John and Dorothy at so many community events. They support every worth-while project!”
John Lugtigheid has known John Wilson all his life, and has “the utmost respect for him”. He remembered operating a binder on the Wilson farm when he was 13 or 14. As he recalled, “John was double my age, but he treated me with the consideration and respect he would give an adult..”
Lugtigheid said Wilson is very straightforward in his dealings with others. “You know where you stand with him!” His friends agree that he is a very hard worker. As Lugtigheid said, “He hasn’t a lazy bone in his body!” Like previous generations of Wilsons, “He has always set a very high standard in everything he does.”