Joe N. Wilson

  • Born: November 1, 1922
  • Died: August 13, 2015
  • Location: Centerville, Iowa

Lange Funeral Home & Crematory LLC

1900 South 18th Street
Centerville, IA 52544
Tel. (641) 856-2000

Tribute & Message From The Family

Joe Wilson, age 92 of Centerville, passed away Thursday, August 13, 2015 at Mercy Medical Center in Centerville, Iowa.

Joe was born on November 1, 1922 in Centerville, Iowa, the son of Delazon "Dell" and Lucy "Glenn" ( Guernsey) Wilson. He graduated from Unionville High School in Unionville, Iowa, went to Centerville Junior College, and took Electrical Engineering Courses while in the Naval Reserves.

He was united in marriage to Geraldine Mary Harrington on July 31, 1945 in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa. She preceded him in death on February 8, 2015.

In 1942, Joe joined the Navy. He was a Naval pilot in both World War II and the Korean War. He attained the rank of Lt. Commander, during his time serving in the Naval Reserves. He flew 5000 military hours, and received the Distinguished Flying Cross, Three Air Medals, World War II Victory Medal, Asiatic Pacific Medal, Philippines Liberation Medal, China Service Medal, Japanese Occupation Ribbon, and Korean Campaign Ribbon. He flew off of four aircraft carriers in the Pacific, the USS Kitkin Bay, the USS Savo Island, the USS Makin Island and the USS Boxer. Joe was released from active duty for the third time in 1953. He flew with the Naval Reserve until 1957. Joe has shared many military stories over the years.

Joe continued his love of aviation throughout his life, he flew his private plane every chance he had, he attended "Fly Ins" in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, helped have an experimental Glasair airplane built, and was the first to fly it.

Joe and his family moved fifteen times while in the Navy, then in 1953 settled on the farm in Unionville, Iowa. He loved to break horses to the saddle, and shoo the young neighborhood boys out of his prized watermelon patch. He would throw hay bales up onto the wagon until he quit sweating, and then knew it was time to find the shade and rehydrate, he would then get right back to throwing the hay bales. He also served in the Iowa State Senate during this time.

After retiring from farming in 1968, Joe and his family moved to Centerville, Iowa, where he enjoyed a career as a Real Estate Broker. He also spent some time, building houses, and buying and selling property.

Joe was an active member of the Unionville Methodist Church in Unionville Iowa, and then the First United Methodist Church in Centerville, Iowa. He taught Sunday school, was a choir member, and served on many committees. He was a member of the Unionville American Legion, Gideon International, Lions, Farm Bureau, and a 4-H Leader.

Joe enjoyed woodworking, making several pieces of furniture for his family and friends. He liked to share produce from his garden, and his mother nurtured his joy of reading. He greatly enjoyed traveling. When ask once, where was his favorite place to travel, his reply was "The World."

Things that were important to Joe were his family, his faith, community service, and people. Joe never met a stranger, anyway, a person would not be a stranger by the time he or she left conversation with Joe.

Joe is survived by his children: Rebecca (Charles) Van Zante of Lenexa, KS, Mary Jo Helgerson of Ottumwa, IA, Daniel (Lottie) Wilson of Centerville, IA, and Nancy "Beth" (Greg) Hawk of Albany, OR; Fourteen grandchildren, Thomas Van Zante of Lenexa, KS, Edward "Ted" (Laura) VanZante of Lenexa, KS, Andrew (Amy) Van Zante of Lenexa, KS, Jesse Helgerson of Iowa City, IA, Nathan (Alba) Helgerson of Yucca Valley, CA, Jill (Mick) Grove of Edmonds, WA, Susan (Ryan) Nenninger of Iowa City, IA, Melissa Shriver of Iowa City, Iowa, Becky (Jose) Vargas of West Liberty, IA, Amanda (Cliff) Williams of Ann Arbor, MI, Rachael (Jonathan) Said of Monrovia, Liberia, Africa, Patrick (Lauren) Wilson of Norfolk, VA, April (Oscar) Vera of Salem, OR, Whitney (Jon Mueller) Hawk of Portland, OR.; Thirteen great-grandchildren; and Siblings, Betty Johnson of Centerville, IA and Janet Martin of Edmond, OK

He was preceded in death by his wife, Geraldine; his parents, Dell and Glenn, his infant brother, David, and two sisters, Charlotte Rogers, and Nancy Moore.

Funeral services will be held at 11:00 AM Monday, August 17, 2015 at the First United Methodist Church in Centerville, IA, with Pastor Dennis Gilbert officiating. A visitation will be held on Sunday, August 16, at Lange Funeral Home from 9 AM-6 PM, with the family present from 4-6PM. Interment will follow in the Unionville Cemetery, Unionville, Iowa. Memorials have been established to the First United Methodist Church, Gideon's International, or the Unionville American Legion, and may be mailed to the Lange Funeral Home and Crematory, 1900 S. 18th St., Centerville, Iowa, 52544. Condolences may be shared online at