David Scofield Wilson passed away peacefully at Enloe Medical Center in Chico on December 7, 2019, at age 88. He was born in Minneapolis on May 26, 1931, to Grace Scofield Wilson and Harold Lewis Wilson. He graduated from Southwest High School and went on to earn his bachelor’s degree and Ph.D. in American studies at the University of Minnesota.
His first college teaching was in the English Department at SUNY, Cortland. Subsequently, in 1968 he accepted a teaching position at UC Davis, in English and American studies. Later as a professor fully in the American Studies Program, he developed and taught courses on the Sacramento Valley, nature and culture, and religion in America.
He was keenly interested in the many connections between nature and culture and relished researching and writing about the cultural implications of such subjects as Sacramento Valley tomatoes (the infamous “square” tomato suitable for machine harvesting), rattlesnakes, flying spiders and the Sutter Buttes.
He helped lead hikes into the Buttes for the then Middle Mountain Foundation, and inspired students to study nature during numerous camping trips. He pushed his students to connect with nature through contour drawing, for which he published a small how-to-draw pamphlet. He was an active and engaged colleague as the American Studies Program developed unique curricula in such areas as popular culture, folklore and folklife, foodways and ethnicity. He was proud of his book In the Presence of Nature (1978 ).
With his first wife, Bonnie Stahler, he had two children, David Jr. and Deirdre. In 1987, under the care of Davis Friends Meeting he and Sarah Emily Newton married. He found great love and a sympathetic like-mindedness with her that lasted his whole life. Together, he and Emily enjoyed watercolor and acrylic painting and relished good food, dogs, birding, hiking and travel, in the United States and Europe.
David’s commitment to peace and justice had strong roots in his parents’ values, values he stood for all his life and which led him to become a Quaker, also appreciating the Quakers’ silent worship and social action. He was an ardent defender of social justice and civil rights, spending many Saturdays at the Chico Peace Vigil at 3rd and Main. A lifelong Democrat, he strongly supported the Chico Peace and Justice Center and LGBTQ rights.
He was particularly drawn to writings of Isaac Penington, James Naylor and Kenneth Boulding. Often he would quote, “There is a spirit which I feel that delights to do no evil, nor to revenge any wrong, but delights to endure all things, in hope to enjoy its own in the end…in hope to outlive all wrath and to weary out all exaltation and cruelty” (James Naylor). Posted in their home: “Our life is love, and peace, and tenderness: and bearing one with another, and not laying accusations one against another; but praying one for another, and helping one another up with a tender hand” (Isaac Penington).
He is survived by his beloved wife, Sarah Emily; sisters Anne Orfald and Kay Hensgens; children David Jr. (Jenny Wu) and Deirdre Glynn-Wilson (Allison Glynn) and grandchildren, Julia, Grace, Ian and Rachel; and numerous nieces and nephews.
A man of great heart and generosity, a true friend and Friend, a teacher, poet, intellectual, artist, naturalist, and peace activist, David showed us great kindness and taught us with humor and humility. After some years of medical issues and difficult rehabilitation, he has now walked on, or perhaps run, beyond pain and disability. He is deeply loved and missed.