James Cooke Wilson, Jr.
James Cooke Wilson, Jr., age 91, died Saturday morning, the 12th of March 2011.Cooke was born on the 7th of February 1920 in Beaumont, Texas to Mary Bradley Randolph Wilson and James Cooke Wilson. He grew up in Beaumont and attended the Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Virginia where he was a graduate of the class of 1938. While attending Episcopal High School, he excelled in varsity football, was co-captain of his undefeated team and was later inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame. Cooke received a football scholarship to Yale University, but after suffering a traumatic neck injury, he returned to Beaumont for a long rehabilitation. Thereafter, he attended the University of Virginia for two years until the outbreak of World War II.He was commissioned a 1st Lieutenant in the United States Air Force and was trained as a fighter pilot. After an honorable discharge, he attended the University of Texas in Austin and Texas A&M University, from which he graduated in 1947, earning a Bachelor of Science degree.He returned to Beaumont where he served as Vice President of three local firms: The Wilson-Broach Oil Company, The Hotel Beaumont and the Tyrell-Wilson Investment Company; he was also an active member of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. In 1951, he married Betty Virginia Kiley in Houston, Texas. The young couple lived in Denver, Colorado where Cooke worked in the oil business for two years and enjoyed weekend ski trips to Leadville and Aspen, Colorado. Cooke and Betty settled in Beaumont to raise their family and in 1960 they moved to Houston with their four children. Cooke became active in ranching and real estate in Texas and Colorado. His passion for skiing and his early childhood summers in the 1920s, spent in the Ruedi Valley near Basalt, Colorado, inspired his love for the Rocky Mountains and kept him involved in early development projects in Aspen, Colorado. In the 1950s-60s he owned Aspen’s Little Percent Taxi Company and the Mesa Store Bakery. He invested in many real estate parcels throughout the Aspen valley area, where family and friends would often gather for festive picnics. Cooke possessed a keen eye for art and antique collecting while traveling the world. He especially enjoyed his time spent in Paris and the country sides of France, where he befriended many an antique brocante and artist. He loved walking the streets of Paris and spent many hours along the banks of the Seine where he would observe and interact with painters and sketch artists. He maintained a lifelong interest in gardening and held a Texas nurseryman’s license for many years.Cooke was a member of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, the Houston Country Club, Allegro, the Argyle Club of San Antonio, served on the Board of Trustees for Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Virginia and served as a Lifetime Trustee of the Kelsey-Seybold Research Foundation.He was predeceased by his brother, Waldo Wilson; his sisters Mary Randolph Wilson Kelsey and Fay Randolph Wilson Griffith; his wife of sixty years, Betty Kiley Wilson; and his sons, Bradley Randolph Wilson and Stephen Kiley Wilson. He is survived by his son, James Cooke Wilson, III and his wife Karen; his daughter, Margaret Wilson Reckling; and two grandchildren, Thomas Radcliffe Reckling V and Kelsey Randolph Reckling. Cooke is also survived by numerous nieces and nephews and his beloved brother-in-law, Dr. Mavis P. Kelsey, Sr. Mr. Wilson’s son and daughter would like to express their deep gratitude to his devoted assistant and caregiver of 26 years, Maria Cisneros, and his other main caregiver and driver, Edna Johnson. The family would also like to thank the entire staff at The Hallmark Assisted Living Center and his additional personal caregivers Abby Palmer, Maria Asian and Andrea Campa for their dedication to his care. In addition, the family wishes to extend their heartfelt appreciation to Irene Bodden, Mr. Wilson’s executive assistant, for her many years of loyal service and expertise.Arrangements in Houston are with Geo. H. Lewis & Sons – The funeral directors since 1936, (713) 789-3005.A memorial service is to be conducted at two o’clock in the afternoon on Monday, the 21st of March, at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, 717 Sage Road in Houston, where the Rev. Dr. Russell J. Levenson, Jr., Rector, and the Rev. Martin J. Bastian, Senior Associate Rector for Pastoral Care, are to officiate.Immediately following the service, all are invited to greet the family during a reception in the adjacent Bagby Parish Hall.Prior to Monday’s service, the family will have gathered for a private inurnment at Glenwood Cemetery in Houston.In lieu of customary remembrances, the family suggests memorial contributions be directed to the Kelsey Research Foundation, 5615 Kirby Drive, Suite 660, Houston, Texas, 77005; or to the St. Martin’s Episcopal Church Foundation, 717 Sage Road, Houston, Texas, 77056.
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