Julian Wilder: 1924-2002

Julian Wilder in bathtub painting wallIan’s father, Julian Wilder, passed away 10 years ago today.  And the time of year seems particularly appropriate to talk about Julian.  He loved the Passover Seder dinner time service.  He enjoyed leading the service in the 1960’s sweet wine-stained, “Maxwell House” Haggadah prayer book.  He loved sharing our family traditions with guests.  Especially children. He enjoyed the leader’s responsibility to hide the Afikomen dessert matzoh and negotiating with the child who found it .  He especially loved the large Seder meal my mother, Carole, would make.  That the dishes were a combination of handed-down family family traditions like home-made dill-spiced matzoh ball soup, and new family traditions like a sliced black radish. In later years, he would be so filled up on his wife’s soup with knadela and appetizers that he had no room left for the entree.

My parents had many friends.  It took me decades to realize that race did not exist for his parents.  They thought of people by their relationships (friends), not by their appearance.  Julian did harbor a life-long anger at the Japanese and German peoples for the crimes against humanity their country’s committed during World War II, as did many of his fellow veterans.  He would not buy a car made in either country.  This never translated into prejudice.  He told me the story of being in Japan shortly after the war ended.  He was travelling through the country by train.  When he got off the train at his stop, he saw a Japanese child with his stomach distended from hunger.  Julian realized that should never be, and and made a vow to help children.  On that day he decided to become a teacher when he returned to the US.  He did.  First teaching children, and then instilling the love of teaching in the children’s teachers. 

Late in life, Julian achieved his dream of becoming a pilot.   He confided to me that he never talked about flying in front of Carole because the idea of his flying worried her.  He assured me that he knew his age, and never flew alone.  Both of my parents instilled a love of poetry in me.  I read the following poem at the graveside service and at the Adelphi University memorial service.  He also read it at the cemetery today.

High Flight
by John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds…and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of…wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up, the long, delirious burning blue
I’ve topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, nor even eagle flew.
And while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space…
…put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

Student's sketch of Julian Wilder

Student's sketch

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2 Responses

  1. What a beautiful and moving tribute to Ian’s dad. It reminds me of how much I miss my own, but also how important it is to remember the wonderful ways in which they have enriched our lives with their service, dedication and love. My prayers are with you hoping you find peace and joy in this holiday season.

    I love you both very much!

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