David Scofield Wilson

WilsonDavid Scofield Wilson, 88, on December 7, 2019, peacefully at Enloe Medical Center in Chico, Calif. He was born in Minneapolis, Minn., on May 26, 1931, to Grace Scofield Wilson and Harold Lewis Wilson. He graduated from Southwest High School in Minneapolis and earned his bachelor’s and doctorate degrees in American studies at the University of Minnesota.

David’s first faculty position was in the English Department at the State University of New York College (SUNY) at Cortland. In 1968, he accepted a teaching position at the University of California, Davis in English and American studies. As a professor in the American studies program, he developed and taught courses on the Sacramento Valley, on nature and culture, and on religion in America. He was keenly interested in the 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, a small complex of eroded volcanic lava domes that rise abruptly from the flat Sacramento Valley. David helped lead hikes into the Buttes for the Middle Mountain Foundation, and inspired students to study nature during camping trips. He encouraged his students to connect with nature through contour drawing, and published a pamphlet describing how to draw contours. David was proud of his book In the Presence of Nature (1978).

David had two children, David Jr. and Deirdre, with his first wife, Bonnie Stahler. In 1987, under the care of Davis (Calif.) Meeting, David and Sarah Emily Newton married. He found great love and a sympathetic like-mindedness with her. 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, which led him to become a Quaker. He was an ardent defender of social justice and civil rights, spending many Saturdays at the Chico Peace Vigil at Third and Main Streets. A lifelong Democrat, he strongly supported the Chico Peace and Justice Center and LGBTQ rights.

David was particularly drawn to writings of Isaac Penington, James Naylor, and Kenneth Boulding. Often he would quote Naylor: “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. Its hope is to outlive all wrath and contention, and to weary out all exaltation and cruelty.” Posted in their home is this quote from Penington: “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.”

A man of great heart and generosity, a true friend and Friend, a teacher, poet, intellectual, artist, naturalist, and peace activist, David showed great kindness and taught 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.

David is survived by his wife, Sarah Emily Newton; two children, David Wilson Jr. (Jenny Wu) and Deirdre Glynn-Wilson (Allison Glynn); four grandchildren; two sisters, Anne Orfald and Kay Hensgens; and numerous nieces and nephews.

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