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‘He gave it everything he’s got’: Lt. Col. Dick Wilson remembered for life of service, love of family

When Dick Wilson decided to retire from the Air Force, he began a second life serving South Mississippi.
Published: Feb. 7, 2022 at 10:28 PM CST
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BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - A retired airman who was known across the Mississippi Gulf Coast and beyond is being remembered for living a life of service, strength and love.

Lt. Col. Dick Wilson was a well-known face in helping to bring the Vietnam Memorial to life and serving in several organizations. An avid fisherman, the retired airman died Sunday at the age of 91.

If you limited Wilson’s story to just his exemplary military career, it would be more than most people ever accomplished. He was a combat pilot in Vietnam, an astronaut trainee and a test pilot at Area 51 before he even moved to Biloxi.

“He just loved people and he loved his Mississippi Gulf Coast, and you know it because of what he accomplished here,” said his son Marty Wilson.

When Dick Wilson decided to retire from the Air Force, he began a second life serving South Mississippi. The avid fisherman initially ran a fish camp on Point Cadet with his family. During that time, he became a servant for the people.

When Dick Wilson decided to retire from the Air Force, he began a second life serving South...
When Dick Wilson decided to retire from the Air Force, he began a second life serving South Mississippi. The avid fisherman initially ran a fish camp on Point Cadet with his family. During that time, he became a servant for the people.(Submitted)

Ricky Mathews is the former publisher of the Sun Herald and was one of Wilson’s fishing buddies.

“Dick Wilson was really in a class by himself. I mean, his determination to get things done,” Mathews said. “You think of the Vietnam Memorial in Ocean Springs and the nine years he worked on that and the many years being involved in the veterans’ parade and all the other community activities.”

Lt. Col. Dick Wilson was a well-known face on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, helping to bring the...
Lt. Col. Dick Wilson was a well-known face on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, helping to bring the Vietnam Memorial to life. He died Feb. 6, 2022, at the age of 91.(Submitted)

A list of the organizations that Wilson helped in some way would be almost endless. The Mississippi Aviation Heritage Museum in Gulfport is among the many he was involved with, serving as a board member to help bring the museum to life.

“He just believed that giving back to this community was what he was supposed to do, and like he did everything in his life, man, he gave it everything he’s got,” Mathews said.

Dick Wilson had a zest for life and is described by those who knew him as having a strong...
Dick Wilson had a zest for life and is described by those who knew him as having a strong spirit and a heart of service.(Submitted)

Wilson and his wife had five children and 12 grandchildren. His first great-grandchild was born last month.

Wilson was honored as a Biloxi Lion’s Club Father of the Year in 2016 and with the Coast Chamber’s Pat Santucci Spirit of the Coast award in 2019.

“What a beautiful legacy and family that my parents have built here on the Coast, so awfully proud of that,” Marty Wilson said.

Dick Wilson and his wife had five children and 12 grandchildren. His first great-grandchild was...
Dick Wilson and his wife had five children and 12 grandchildren. His first great-grandchild was born last month.(Submitted)

Dick Wilson’s fishing prowess is legendary. He broke several state and world records over the years.

“I’ve often said he could out-fish the youngest guy on the boat even when he was in his 70s,” Mathews said.

Dick Wilson’s 90th birthday party last year was held drive-by style because of COVID-19, but it seemed he might still be able to achieve one more goal.

“You know he spoke so many times about seeing 100, I believed him, and he believed it, which was even more important,” Marty said.

Instead, Wilson died Sunday at the age of 91.

“Just an amazing man with an incredible thirst for life,” Mathews said. “You really thought he was going to live forever, but he just proved unfortunately that he’s human too, but what an amazing life, what an amazing life he led.”

Bradford-O’Keefe Funeral Home in Biloxi is handling the funeral arrangements. To read his obituary and find out the details of the funeral service, click here.

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