Constance Wilson

Date(s) of birth and/or death approximate

Date of Birth

October 1st, 1937

Date of Death

February 1st, 2010

Memorial Meeting

University Friends Meeting


Constance Wilson, 72, of Portland, Maine passed away in February of 2010 at the Maine Medical Center in Portland after a few weeks of illness. She was born in October 1937 in Blackstone, Massachusetts. She comes from a Quaker family; her parents met at New England Yearly Meeting Annual Session. Her mother’s family had been active Quakers for generations and her father was a member of North Smithfield, Rhode Island Meeting. Her parents were married at the former Oak St. Meeting in Portland, Maine. Constance fondly remembered seeing her parent’s framed wedding certificate on the wall of their home. In 1949 the family transferred their membership to Vassalboro (Maine) Meeting of New Yearly England Meeting, where Constance participated as a child and was a member.

Constance earned her Bachelor’s degree from Swarthmore College in l959 and her PhD from Cornell University in l970. Her life centered around daily study and learning. She was fluent in several languages including French, Thai, Latin, Sanskrit and Pali. She traveled the globe at least twice. She served as a professor at San Francisco State College from 1966-67 and at Northern Illinois University from l967 to 2003. She taught in several Southeast Asian countries as well as conducted extensive research in many Asian countries including Thailand, Burma, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

She became an authority on the Viet Nam War and ongoing issues centered around Southeast Asia. Throughout her career she was the recipient of numerous grants and academic awards. She wrote over 150 published papers as well as a book entitled Thailand: A Handbook of Historical Statistics published in l983. She was a founding member of the board of advisors for the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at Northern Illinois University in 2009. She had just completed an edited book entitled The Middle Mekong River Basin: Studies in Thai History and Culture, 2009.

Constance was a true connoisseur of the arts and visited museums all over the world. A supporting member of the various symphonies wherever she lived, she also enjoyed the opera and ballet. Constance demonstrated a quiet thoughtfulness to her friends and family and often sent gifts and cards when it was least expected and most needed. She never complained of her many infirmities, but did whatever was necessary to get on with life. Almost always cheerful and direct, she cut away the trivial and did her best to obtain the real meaning of the world. We know she loved cookies and well-made cake, finding their flavor in the same way as she dealt with life.

As an adult she never lived near a Meeting and traveled frequently so she maintained her membership in Vassalboro Meeting. However, when she moved to Seattle she could actively participate in University Friends Meeting and transfer of her membership was gladly accepted on January 8, 2006.

At University Friends Meeting she served on the Library Committee writing wonderful book reviews for the monthly UFM publication Gleamings. By the time she left to move to Portland, Maine she had many friends who helped her move her many books. She moved to Maine in hopes of being of assistance to her mother. She quickly became involved with Portland Friends Meeting. She was in the process of transferring her membership there when she died.