Obituary of Monte Dale Wilson
Monte Dale Wilson, 84, succumbed to cancer and passed peacefully into the mystic July 20, 2023, at his home in Boise with his loving family and nature’s wonders nearby. His life’s story reads like a child’s adventure tale-complete with hardships, joy, hard work, learning, love, and achievements. As with Robert Frost, he took the road less traveled, and that made all the difference.
Monte was nine years old when his parents hauled their four young kids from Washington State to a remote Native village in Alaska, near the Yukon border. They had considerably more grit than money. Winter weather was setting in when they arrived. They endured their first Alaskan winter with the help of new Athabascan neighbors, eating mostly what they could hunt, fish, and barter.
Their local school at Northway only went through eighth grade, so when Monte was thirteen he left home with his brother, Lavell, to attend boarding school with mostly Native students in coastal Sitka, Alaska. Decades later, as retired Professor Dr. Wilson, he volunteered to teach sciences classes there for a year at what had become a college.
After graduating high school, Monte worked mostly construction jobs to pay for his university education. He first attended the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, then Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in geology.
In 1962, Monte was working as a geologist in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and newly wed to his life’s sweetheart, Helen Grainger, when he was drafted into the US Army. It was the Vietnam War era, so his assignment was a godsend. For most of two years he worked with civilian scientists in the Ballistics Research Laboratories at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. He was involved in designing and launching two rockets in order to identify characteristics of a zone of the upper atmosphere.
He enjoyed working as a rocket scientist and appreciated living on the east coast, especially near Washington, DC while historic civil rights changes were unfolding. However, Monte wanted his future to focus on learning and teaching in the west.
In 1965, Monte and Helen moved to Idaho, where he taught science and math to junior high students in Pocatello then Potlatch and continued his education with the help of the GI Bill. He received a master’s degree in Zoology then a PhD in geology at the University of Idaho, Moscow. He taught geology classes at the University of Idaho for a year before moving to Boise in 1969 to join the geology faculty at Boise State College (later University).
Dr. Monte Wilson was actively involved in BSU and the Geoscience Department for over 30 years, teaching various geology and environmental studies classes, mentoring and advising students. An author and photographer, his work was published in professional journals and books. Some of his most memorable research projects provided adventures galore in the mountains of British Columbia, Alaska, Austria, Nepal, and Peru.
Following one research project in the mountainous Wrangell-St Elias National Park in Alaska, in 1993 Monte represented the USA by presenting a research paper at the International Conference on National Parks in Beijing, China.
Monte assumed leadership positions such as chair of Geoscience Department and of the Faculty Senate, and was Interim Dean of Arts and Sciences. Following retirement, he was active in the BSU Emeriti Guild. He also served on the Boise Planning and Zoning Commission, South Boise Water Company Board, and volunteered in other local and national positions, such as with Boy Scouts, the National Science Foundation and the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory’s citizen’s advisory board.
A highlight of his career was as Fulbright Professor (Herr Professor Dr. Monte Wilson) at the University of Salzburg, Austria, where in 1981-82 he taught geoscience classes in English and German. He also conducted research on Sonnblickees Glacier in Austria with Austrian glaciologist Dr. Heinz Slupetsky.
When time allowed that year, Monte and Helen traveled widely (and sometimes wildly) with their two pre-teen sons, Dale and Tima. They explored what earlier seemed story-book lands, including Egypt, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Romania and most western Europe countries. Monte also traveled twice to the USSR.
Monte D. Wilson was a devoted family man, citizen and friend to multitudes. He was buoyed by living a purposeful, uniquely traveled life, trying to understand and help others appreciate and preserve precious Planet Earth.
He survived by his wife of 61 years, Helen Grainger Wilson; their sons, Dale (Kami) Wilson and Tima Wilson (Ed Kuklinski); grandchildren: Amanda Downs (Taylor), Ben Wilson, and Hailey Wilson; great grandchildren: Mason, Marley and Adalyn Downs; almost family, Vinh Vu, Long and Elin Tran; siblings in Alaska: brother, Lavell (Cathy) Wilson and sister, Twila (Dick) Palmatier; plus many other relatives including Indigenous family and friends in both the USA and Canada. He was predeceased by his parents: Bertha Wilson Huff and William Dale Wilson; and brother, Dean. Monte loved each of them dearly.
Memorials would be gratefully appreciated by a favorite charity or by the Wilson-Grainger Scholarship for Native Tribes and Refugees, Boise State University Foundation; 1173 W. University Dr., Boise, Idaho 83706.To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Monte Wilson, please visit Tribute Store