Eugene Jack "Gene" Wilson was born in Grand Junction, Colorado, on May 4, 1921, the son of Nettie Cooperman and Walter N. Wilson, a clerk in a tobacco store. Most of his spare time during his early years was spent exploring the Book Cliffs, the Grand Mesa, and the Monuments near Grand Junction. He started his first mineral collection during these years, beginning a lifelong interest.
In 1942 Gene joined the Marine Air Corp and served four years as a gunner on a bomber in the Pacific Theater. After his discharge he enrolled at the University of California at Berkley, where in 1946 he met his future wife, Carol Crissey DeLancey, a native of San Louis Obispo, California, who was pursuing a degree in Social Science. A year later they were married, and settled in Baskerville, California where they had a son and two daughters.
After earning an A.B. in Geology at Berkeley he attended graduate school for two years, studying paleontology. During his professional career he worked as a Geologist for several oil companies including the Ohio Oil Company, Amoseas, Caltex, and Arnel; these jobs took him and his family to Libya for two years, Sumatra for two years, and then to South West Africa (Namibia) for 13 years. The Arnel Oil Company relocated the Wilsons to Windhoek, the capital of Namibia for three years in order to evaluate a concession in the oil fields; they then moved to Johannesburg for the next nine years before returning to the US in 1976.
Gene always loved minerals, and began collecting at some of the most famous mines in Africa (Tsumeb, Berg Aukus, Kombat, Hotazel, Abenab, Onganja, Brandberg, etc.). He quickly realized that he was in the right place at the right time to acquire some of the most spectacular minerals that were coming out of those mines. He soon made friends with well-known dealers and collectors such as Sid Peters, Louie Teixeira-Leite and Desmond Sacco, as well as several miners from the various mines.
When new minerals were extracted from Tsumeb, Sid Peters would call Gene and would say "get over to my shop, I have some new minerals." Gene and Carol would hop in the car and drive over to see what they could purchase. Sid Peters had a great relationship with Gene and usually gave him first choice on the minerals. As a result, Gene became responsible for introducing African minerals to many minerals dealers and collectors in Colorado and other parts of the US.
Carol was not only instrumental in supporting Gene's love for these minerals, but spent countless hours typing and documenting the history for each mineral specimen on a 3 x 5-inch card. The meticulous documentation preserves a great deal of mineral history behind the specimens.
After returning to the Unites States in 1974, Eugene was diagnosed with cancer and passed away on October 6, 1976, at the age of 55. Carol and her family and friends had the pleasure of enjoying the minerals for the next 36 years before deciding to sell them. But first his minerals were displayed at The School of Mines Mineral Museum in his home state of Colorado in 2012. Carol passed away in 2014, a year after the sale of the collection in 2013.
Gene's mineral collection was purchased by Sandra Gonzales and Mark Danuser of Rocky Mountain Gems and Minerals in Denver.
KLEINPELL, R. M. (1977) Memorial to Eugene J. Wilson, 1921-1976. Geological Society of America.
U.S. Federal Census 1930, 1940.
Social Security Death Index.
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[Citation format for this entry:
WILSON, Wendell E. (2019)
Biographical Archive, at www.mineralogicalrecord.com.]
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||3 x 5-inch card (courtesy of Dan Evanich)|