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

Condolence & Memory Journal

Dear children, I am Mary Camp, Joe & Gerry's GEorgia friend. So sorry to hear about Joe, I did know about Gerry.
I think they were the best friends that Tom & I ever had. My Tom died four years ago in April. I had lost touch with your parents after that. Tom & Joe communicated often by email...I do NOT do computers! This email address is my grandson's & I would love to hear from you. My phone # is 770 927 6214.
I would love to see all of you. If you are ever in Georgia, my door is always open.
My sympathy to all of you...
I was 90 in November.
Love, Mary

Posted by Mary Camp - Luthersville, GA - Friend   January 28, 2016

He was one of the good guys, and will truly be missed.

Posted by charles warnock - san francisco, CA   August 25, 2015

Wilson Family,
We will add you to our prayer list. Joe & Gerry were good friends while we were in Centerville. We were part of several things at the church as well as in the community.
Peace and blessing to each of you.
Rev. Dave & Dorothy

Posted by Dave & Dorothy Higdon - Cedar Rapids, IA - Friends & Pastor   August 20, 2015

A great man.

Posted by Mike Cortesio - Kingston, TN   August 20, 2015

We are so sorry for your loss, Becky and Familes!
Nancy & Bob Corder

Posted by Nancy & Bob Corder - Olathe, KS - friend   August 18, 2015

He was a vey nice man and he will be greatly missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.

The Ewing Family: Matthew, Margery and Marilyn

Posted by Margery Davison - Centerville, IA - friend   August 17, 2015

Sorry to hear the passing of your Father. What a wonderful man.

Gerald and Kahla Johnson

Posted by Gerald and Kahla Johnson - Centerville, IA - friend   August 17, 2015


Dear Wilson Family,
You have my deepest sympathy as you mourn your father's passing and celebrate his life.

I have fond memories of your Dad flying my Father to equipment auctions all over the Midwest and South. I was thrilled when he piloted my first plane ride when I was in elementary school...what a treat!

He always had a smile and a great story, and will be fondly remembered.

Blessings to your family,
Jean Barbaglia Wenisch

Posted by Jean Barbaglia Wenisch - Cedar Rapids, IA - Family Friend   August 17, 2015

To the Wilson family: Our sincere sympathy.

I have had the honor of knowing Lt. Cmdr Joe Wilson as a member of the American Legion Post 407 Unionville.

I listened with awe as he told of his experiences in WWII and the Korean War. He especially mentioned his fallen aviators whose lives were lost in the defense of freedom. He never forgot them.

In November of 2009, this was demonstrated during the memorial and dedication ceremony for the Appanoose County Korean War servicemen who did not return from the war. One of them was a US Marine pilot that Joe never knew but he spoke of him as if he were a brother. Joe and his brother pilot and thousands of others helped save the Republic of Korea from the horrors of Communism. They gave a nation in need a chance to survive. That is an enduring tribute for their sacrifice to liberty.

He and others like him are an example to us all. God bless him and his family.

Lt. Colonel Richard H. Keilig Jr. and Family
Medical Service Corps US Army Reserve

Posted by Lt. Colonel Richard H. Keilig Jr. - Moravia, IA - Fellow member of American Legion   August 16, 2015

My sympathy to the Wilson "Kids" (we were kids the last time we saw each other). May God comfort you now and always. Amen.

Posted by Mark Cochran    August 16, 2015

Our deepest sympathy to the Wilson family to the passing of Joe (a wonderful man admired in many ways). Our thoughts and prayers are with you.

Posted by Judy & Brian Pawlak - Howell, MI - Cliff Williams' Mother & Stepdad   August 16, 2015

Sorry to here about Joe. I got to know Joe when him and his wife run Dog and Suds. I think that was the name of it. I want the family to know they have my simpathy. Joe was a very nice person. He will be missed.

Posted by John &Kathy Huffman    August 15, 2015

So sorry to hear about your father and grandfather. He was a Great American.

Posted by Steve and Dena Jones - Iowa City, IA - Freinds   August 15, 2015


Always remember THE GOOD TIMES!

I am sooo sorry about the Death of your Dad and your Mother earlier this year.

My thoughts and Prayers are with your family!

Connie Benson Rees

Posted by Connie Benson Rees - Des Moines, IA - Friend of Dan's in th 70's   August 15, 2015

Joe and Gerry were always so fun to be with. May they rest in peace together

Posted by Nancy Argo - Minneapolis ., MN - friend   August 15, 2015

A wonderful man with a wonderful family. He will be missed by his family and his community.

I pray God provides comfort for all Joe's family and friends.

Posted by Judy Austin - Centerville, IA - Friend of the Family   August 14, 2015

So sorry for Joe's passing. It is so close to Gerry's passing. Seems impossible. May God comfort you in your sorrow and may the many wonderful memories that you hold dear in your heart sustain you at this time.
Praying for you,

Posted by Marilyn Barber - Centerville, IA - Friend   August 14, 2015

Our remembrance of Joe will always be , his smile, his kinds word, a sense of humor. and reaching out to others. Doug and Nancy Price

Posted by DOUG AND NANCY PRICE - Leon, IA - Friend   August 14, 2015

With Deepest Sympathy that someone so special will not be forgotten. The happy times you could never regret and your wonderful memories that will live on forever.

Posted by Dennis & Beverly Sisul Laurson and Family - Centerville, IA   August 14, 2015

So sorry to hear about Joe. I have lots of good memories. Keeping everyone in our prayers.

Posted by Sharon McDanel - Moravia, IA - Friend   August 13, 2015

So sorry to hear of Joe's passing. You are all in my thoughts and prayers

Posted by Jackie (McCarthy) Richardson - Moravia, IA - Friend of family   August 13, 2015

So sorry, GREAT man, GREAT family.

Posted by Todd Baze - Centerville, IA   August 13, 2015