In the sixteen months after receiving a diagnosis of 3 to 6 months to live due to lung disease, Mike Wilson enjoyed spending time with friends and family and especially his daughter Heather, going to the neighborhood bar, watching movies he loved, celebrating holidays and birthdays, got a tour of the Wisconsin State Crime Lab founded by his father, arguing politics with his son on occasion, and stubbornly proving that all the diagnosis underestimated his always smiling ability to just keep recovering and keep going. Even catching a severe case of COVID and going onto a ventilator, he surprised everyone by coming off it in 36 hours. After a fast decline in the first week of July, 2023, on Friday, July 7th he spent the day with loving family and friends. And in the early morning hours of Saturday, July 8th, 2023 he passed away quietly in his sleep, kept company by family.
Mike was preceded in death by his parents, Charles and Jane Wilson. He is survived by his children, Heather Wilson, Brian Wilson and his grandson, James Rohde.
Born in December 1937 in Oak Park, Illinois to his loving parents Charles McCormick Wilson and Jane De Armond Wilson, Mike grew up in Sherwood Hills in Madison, Wisconsin. A graduate of Wisconsin High School, he enjoyed telling stories of he and his friends almost burning down a garage trying to put a jet engine on their car, racing around the capitol square with a pitcher of beer on the hood, and throwing water balloons from a second story balcony. Or beer balloons? I can't remember, though I am pretty sure beer drinking was involved.
After high school Mike worked and eventually signed up for the US Navy. After a brief stint peeling an enormous pile of potatoes in California for the base's kitchen, his actual training started and he became an electrical engineer. Posted on a minesweeper in the later 1950s, he of course ended up on a beach around Taiwan working on the electronics gear while the off duty crew drank beer in 100 degree weather. And, yes, Chinese artillery shells were fired overhead and landed a bit out to sea, well within range to put him in “live fire” combat. Always afterwards, when asked if he wanted to travel or see the world, he’d joke he’d already seen the world in the Navy, looking out the doorway of a bar in every port.
After the Navy Mike majored in electrical engineering at the UW, worked in electronics, and also taught at the Wisconsin School of Electronics. He got married in 1965 and moved to New Haven, Connecticut for a job building and troubleshooting large custom computer systems, then later moved back to Chicago. After several years they moved to Madison and had their daughter, Heather Wilson, and then their son Brian Frederick Charles Wilson in 1971. In Madison he worked in electronics owning his own repair business, McCormick TV, with a partner in the Madison area. Later in the 1970s he moved to Poynette, Wisconsin near Mike’s friend Joe Brendell to raise their kids and commute to Madison.
From electronics and repair, he moved into the business of insurance. The rest of his career was selling people and businesses the insurance they needed, first as an insurance salesman for Sentry and MSI, and then owning and running an independent insurance agency in the Madison, Wisconsin area. Eventually he sold his business and retired briefly, and then partnered with his daughter Heather in buying another independent insurance agency in Middleton.
All through his life, Mike’s sincere smile, friendly nature and good sense of humor helped him easily make friends everywhere from the local bar to insurance conferences. We suspect people know many more stories about him or just remember meeting him, and we would love to hear any stories or anecdotes people might be willing to share about him.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation, website at https://www.pulmonaryfibrosis.org/.