James Dwight Wilkinson
June 29, 1928 - September 9, 2020
87 Year Resident of Aromas
REMEMBERING CDR. JAMES D. WILIKINSON
Where does one even begin to tell of this wonderful, tenderhearted, generous, loving man? Born in Fargo, North Dakota on June 29, 1928, Jim spent his early years in a small townhouse in Fargo with his mother, Grace Wilkinson, his father, Frederick Wilkinson, and his younger sister, Janice. His mother told family members about how he used to be so tidy as a young boy that he would line his toys up carefully in a row. That sense of meticulousness remained with him throughout his life, but more than about material things, he was always careful about how he treated other people.
When he was 5 years old, his family moved to Aromas, California where they purchased an apricot orchard, barn, and farmhouse. Jim and his sister worked along with his very dedicated parents to make the farm run smoothly including picking apricots, care for the animals and other chores. It was while attending college in Salinas that he met the love of his life, his beloved wife, Marguerite Hellen Wilkinson (nee Sanders) whom he married on July 31, 1950.
James' passion in life (besides his family) was flying. On August 11, 1948, he joined the Navy to follow that passion—he became a pilot. His first aircraft was a P2Y but he ended up flying helicopters, both in the Korean war and in Viet Nam where he was the Executive Officer for the H1 Squadron which pioneered the use of the CH46 Helicopters. He was awarded the Bronze Star for his service in Vietnam.
James and Marguerite had three children—a daughter, Robin, and two sons, Fred and David. Although his duties serving as a Commander in the U.S Navy weighed heavily on his shoulders, Jim was a dedicated family man and never was too busy for his wife and children. He loved to make big breakfasts for them on the weekends and made sure that every Saturday they all enjoyed doing outdoor activities together—fishing, boating, waterskiing, even horseback riding! Every summer he took his family camping. For him, all of Nature was a manifestation of God's love to be prized and he instilled that love in his children. James and Marguerite have 6 grandchildren and, although Marguerite did not get to meet them, they have 7 great grandchildren! They pursued many interests together, including, and especially music for which both were gifted, singing in church choirs wherever they went and taking up various musical instruments. James also had many hobbies of his own, including repairing electronic equipment, operating a ham radio, and riding a motorcycle.
When he retired as a Commander in the Navy on June 30th, 1972, James and Marguerite moved to Aromas where he built a house for them to live in at the top of a hill of his parents' (now their) property. After "retirement" Jim never sat idly, but continued to work in aircraft maintenance, flying, as well as teaching volunteered their time and work for many causes, including helping at the Aromas aircraft maintenance and repair at Gavilan college. Both Jim and Marguerite also spent many hours volunteering for the Community Baptist Church. Later, Jim spent many hours every week working in the Watsonville Community Hospital service League, driving a tram as a courier, Coffee Shop Cashier as well as serving on several committees, including as an elected officer of the service League and as a member of their Board of Directors. He also attended the Central Coast Counties council meetings for the state of California Association of Hospital Volunteer Services.
In 1993, both James and Marguerite decided to become Orthodox Christians, so after becoming catechumens and being received into the faith, they joined the parish of St. Peter and Paul in Ben Lomond, attending faithfully and singing in the choir. Later he joined St. Lawrence Orthodox Church parish in Felton where he felt he had finally reached his spiritual home. Sadly, Marguerite died in 1996 but Jim was faithful to her until the day he reposed in the Lord. Every night, until his last night, he shared 20 or 30 minutes having "memories" with her at a table in his living room that he set up to commemorate her. Not long after his wife's death, James was diagnosed with Type I diabetes. Nonetheless, he continued driving to church and choir practice, for many years. Eventually, however, being so conscientious about safety, he became concerned that it was not safe for him to make the long drive up to Felton. For four years, Father Nathaniel Johnson travelled the 35 miles one way to bring him the Eucharist twice a month which was a tremendous sacrifice for Father, albeit a blessing for Jim who never forgot that great kindness to him.
Everyone who met Jim knows that he was a humble man with tremendous integrity, self-effacing, yet with a good sense of humor. The last time he celebrated Thanksgiving dinner (in 2019) with his sister, his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, he told them that what he was most thankful to God for was them. He is loved by all who know him and remembered fondly for his gentle manner, kind heartedness, and very obvious Christian love.
One thing is certain—he is greatly loved by all of his family and friends. His memory will always be eternal! View the online memorial for James Dwight Wilkinson
Published by Santa Cruz Sentinel on Sep. 15, 2020.