La Jolla Monthly Meeting is saddened by the death of our beloved member, Odell Wilson, Jr. on December 18, 2020 from COVID-19. Odell was born on June 22, 1954 in San Diego, CA to Peggy Jean Wright and Obdee Wilson, Sr. He has two children by a previous marriage, Eboni Britton who was born in 1973 and Odell Wilson, Jr. who was born in 1986. He married Laura Lopez in 2003.
Odell served two terms as an Army Ranger: 1971-1976 and 1983-1985. The military was a very important part of his life and he liked to be called Ranger. As he wrote in a memoir which he had started: “Any American who is willing to place him/herself in harm’s way in order to preserve the American way of life is entitled to all this country can offer when they fall upon hard times.” And Odell himself fell upon hard times and was homeless at the time when he joined our Meeting.
Despite his physical and emotional challenges and life on the streets for several years, Odell maintained a positive spirit. He prided himself on his prolific volunteer activities. These included his year of service with Coast Vineyard Church, cooking 5 days a week for 100 homeless individuals in the Mission Bay area. He cooked on and off for 5 years for the Vietnam Veterans of San Diego and Bread of Life. He also volunteered for the Veterans Administration Hospital Spinal Cord Injury Physical Therapy Unit, the Veteran’s Museum, the Torrey Pines Gliderport, Casa Del Rey Moro African Museum, and the 82nd Airborne Honor Guard.
Despite his size, 5’ 9”, 260 pounds, Odell ran in many marathons, carrying a POW/MIA flag to bring awareness to their plight as well as to show support for the men and women who serve in the military. He started running one month after surgery for a grapefruit size tumor in his left thigh and ran while undergoing radiation therapy. In 2004, he ran 11 marathons in 10 months.
Raised as a Jehovah’s Witness, Odell started coming to La Jolla Meeting about 20 years ago and became a member in 2005. A few years ago, he asked Meeting to be recognized as a Quaker chaplain. In that role, he joyfully served as a chaplain for three years at the annual Stand Down weekend for homeless veterans. He gives credit to God and to Quakers for holding him “in the Light” as he pursued his running and other volunteer efforts.
Friends remember Odell as a very kind, generous, loving man who cared for people deeply and touched our hearts. He regularly would contribute dishes to our potlucks and made a huge effort to recognize all the women in the Meeting on Mothers’ Day. We will miss him very much.