Robert D. (Bob) Wilson - Born January 1, 1913, to L. Pearl Wilson and Earl B. Wilson in Billings, Montana, Bob Wilson was raised in a strong Christian family in Billings, where he got the opportunity to meet Charles Lindbergh and see Amelia Earhart. He graduated from Billings Senior High School in 1933. He moved to Minnesota for work and there he met Leila B. Folk. They were married in Fairmont, Minnesota, on July 5, 1942. Bob and Leila were an inseparable couple, and they had no children. The Wilsons moved back to Billings, where Bob worked in a shoe store. During World War II, Bob was not accepted for enlistment, being rated by the Army as 4F. While in Billings, Bob and Leila formed a youth group at their church called the G and G — guys and gals. Bob had many fond memories of that youth group and formed lifelong friendships with the people involved.
In 1947, the Wilsons moved to Miles City, Montana, where Bob worked for the radio station as the news director. Bob and Leila moved to Sheridan In 1949, where Bob was employed by KWYO radio station and became the news director. Bob’s career in broadcasting spanned more than 60 years.
As news director for KWYO, Bob was involved with nearly everything in Sheridan. He felt it was his responsibility to attend and participate in as many community events as possible to properly report the local news. He was a board member or president of a number of local organizations. Among the many events and organizations that had the hand of Bob Wilson in their creation or promotion during his 50-year radio career in Sheridan were the Miss Indian America pageant, Cow Town Hoe Down, Rotary Gun Powder and Buckskin event, Community Concerts, Sheridan Retailers Association, Sheridan Centennial Celebration, Christmas Stroll, Community Thanksgiving Dinner, North East Wyoming Life Underwriter Association, and Sheridan WYO Rodeo. As news director for KWYO, Bob was privileged to interview nearly every significant person who came to Sheridan, including Babe Ruth, Paul Harvey, Bob Hope, Phyllis Diller, the Queen of England, Prince, Kenny Rogers, Robert Urich, Garth Brooks, Anthony Zerbe, and Pam Dauber, to name a few. His popular Man About Town program ran for over 20 years in Sheridan. Bob received many honors in his life, including induction into the Wyoming Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame.
Bob became very active in Rotary after he joined the Sheridan Rotary Club in 1949. He remembered working with Jack Gage, who became Wyoming’s Governor and then U. S. Senator, to help pass a bill in the Wyoming legislature that annually granted 25 deer licenses to the Sheridan Rotary club for use in the Gunpowder and Buckskin Club event. He served on the Rotary board as an officer and as president of the Club. One of the significant events he supported and fostered was the annual Ladies Night. For many of the 60 years of his membership, Bob presented a short news program at the weekly Rotary meetings as well as preparing the weekly bulletin the Ramrod.
Count Frederic Thorne-Rider and his wife Harriet were personal acquaintances of Bob’s as well as Dodd and Dorothy Bryan and Vernon and Rowena Griffith. Bob was proud to be asked to write The Good that Lives After Them, the book about the lives and legacies of these prominent people. Away with Words is Bob’s publication of many of the tag lines from his Man About Town radio programs. The text for the Sheridan Centennial Celebration was also crafted by Bob.
Bob and Leila created a tour group called the Wyoming Wayfarers, which visited destinations such as Alaska, Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, the Caribbean, Canada, and the Northeastern United States. Nearly a thousand paying participants went on the group’s 26 different trips, with some people enjoying many of them. Bob not only chose the tour locations but he also had absolute control of every detail of the trips. He was good at finding the unique and unusual for his tour group to enjoy.
Music played a large part in Bob’s life. He created singing groups called the Mother Singers and the Notables. He directed the choir at First Presbyterian Church as well as a number of Community Choirs. The radio presented an opportunity for him to present classical music in the Concert Hour each Sunday afternoon. Bob directed the music in the stage play of the Mary Widow. Bob and Leila also attended as many musical and stage presentations as possible.
First Presbyterian Church was a central part of his life. In addition to serving as choir director for 44 years, on most Saturdays Bob could be found at the church looking after the flower arrangements for the chancel table, organizing the hymnals, or arranging the pews in straight consistent rows. Bob was a significant contributor to many worship services, including Easter Sunrise service and Maundy Thursday service. He was the organizer of both the Easter Lily Cross and the Christmas display of poinsettias. The Thanksgiving Harvest set piece was Bob’s creation, and he enjoyed gathering the items and arranging them each year. A picture of each of the past year’s presentations was always at hand.
Bob died peacefully in his sleep on January 2, 2009, at Westview Health Care Center in Sheridan. Cremation has taken place. He was preceded in death by his parents; his wife of 65 years, Leila; two sisters, Margaret Benesh and Murial Brannon; and one brother, Bernard Wilson. He is survived by nieces Murial Mitchell of Billings, Montana, Joyce Roath and Janet Hannrahan of California; nephews Glenn Benesh and Ronald Benesh of Kalispell, Montana, Dale Benesh of New Jersey; as well as 20 great nieces and nephews.
A Celebration of Bob’s Life will be held at First Presbyterian Church on Tuesday, May 19, 2009, at 11:00 AM. Kane Funeral Home is in charge of the arrangements. Memorials may be sent to First Presbyterian Church, 2121 Colonial Drive, Sheridan, Wyoming 82801.