Edna Wilson was born February 5, 1933 in St. Louis, Missouri to Dr. Oscar and Mildred Williamson. She attended Oberlin College and graduated from Washington University School of Nursing in St. Louis. While in nursingschool, she dated Lutheran seminary students and was pinned to a medical student when at a dance, she met dental student, Olen C. Wilson. They married in 1956, and after completing his overseas Army service, settled in Amarillo to establish his dental practice. Edna then became a Norwegian Texan and proud of both heritages.
Throughout her life, Edna actively supported her husband’s career and their six children’s education and activities while serving her community in numerous ways. Her children’s choices kept her busy participating and leading groups such as PTA, Boy and Girl Scouts, music, art, dance and sports events. This also meant she spent lots of time driving around town in a series of station wagons (while relinquishing her favorite Volkswagen beetle to her husband) touring the Panhandle to watch never-ending rounds of softball, tennis, volleyball, and football games and tournaments. She also gathered the family together to attend countless student orchestra concerts, singing performances, special dance ceremonials, piano recitals, and theatre productions-– as she herself was an avid swimmer and lifeguard, field hockey captain, dancer, musician and thespian in high school.
Edna’s support of her husband is evidenced by her longtime participation in the Panhandle District Dental Auxiliary. She served the group in many capacities including its presidency and co-chairing the state convention. Edna worked side-by-side with Olen in his work for Rotary International and on the Board of Directors of the Presbyterian Home for Children. She received the Paul Harris Fellow award for her service and dedication.
Edna gave her time to First Presbyterian Church generously where the family worshiped for over 50 years. She taught Sunday School, volunteered in the nursery, coordinated Vacation Bible School, chaired Christmas Home, served on numerous committees locally and at Presbytery level, was a Stephen Minister, participated in Presbyterian Women including Moderator, was an ordained Elder, and was always willing to be “Nurse Edna” for church youth, music, and mission trips. She and Olen made lifelong friendships through FPC, many beginning in the Triple T Sunday School class and extending to national and international presbytery meetings.
Edna loved music, and played the piano. She and Olen attended the Santa Fe Opera for many years, and they held season tickets for the Amarillo Symphony from the time they moved to town. Edna further supported the Amarillo Symphony by volunteering with the Symphony Guild in many areas including being the French Horn for elementary school presentations and serving as its president during the country’s bi-centennial. She gladly represented Amarillo at state and national symphony meetings and worked to improve the availability of music in our community. Edna similarly had an appreciation for things of beauty and history, which spurred her work with Harrington House where she was an original mentor and enjoyed giving tours and serving on the Board of Directors. Mrs. Harrington asked her to oversee the clothing and accessory displays, inventory, and organization, which she did for many years.
P.E.O. was another organization Edna supported. Its philanthropic and educational focus appealed to her. She served in many capacities including President. With her interests in education and improving the Amarillo community, she worked with other influential women such as Kathrine Wilson and Wookie Johnson to establish the Don Harrington Discovery Center. Edna served on the Discovery Center’s Board of Directors and continued to refine and strengthen its mission and work. Likewise, she was an early volunteer with Opportunity School, working with teachers in the classroom and assisting with health screenings for children. While Edna’s own children were in school, she returned to college and received a cardiac specialization to enhance her nursing degree. Due to her nursing education, she was also a member of the group that established the now flourishing nursing program at Amarillo College.
Travel always appealed to Edna because educational and cultural opportunities interested her. She and Olen were fortunate to travel to many domestic and international places over the years beginning in their first year of marriage. Family vacations were learning experiences as well as fun. Edna was a coordinator for international exchange students, and the Wilson family hosted exchange students during summer breaks and school years.
She made time for play. Edna loved to dance, and she would take to the floor for ballroom, Norwegian, square, tap or country dancing or to the stage to perform in the Symphony Follies or FPC talent shows. She and Olen won dance contests and were members of local dance clubs. At social events, Olen was never her only dance partner, and she moved with grace and joy.
As a self-taught cook and baker, she enjoyed reading recipes and cookbooks and made entertaining at home a common activity. She was a hostess for many meals, parties, and social events, and many who were sick, homebound or celebrating an occasion would find Edna stopping by to visit and bringing something good to eat. She learned to make jellies, pickles and canned vegetables and fruits, all of which tasted better than any store-bought offering.
Among her many honors, Beta Sigma Phi recognized Edna as Woman of the Year and the Women’s Forum as a Woman of Distinction, but she was always more interested in other people and their stories, strangers and friends alike. She used her time and talents to improve her community, church, and family, and her kindness and goodness were given freely. Amarillo is a far richer community today because of her compassion, interests and devotion.
Her parents, Oscar and Mildred Williamson, two sisters Betty Ann Williamson and Connie Frohnapfel and brother Oscar “Edward” Williamson predeceased her.
Edna is survived by her husband of 56 years, Olen and her immediate family of Lynn (Amarillo); Mark (Iowa City, IA), wife Mary Beth, Vince, Elena; Anne (Arlington, VA), Megan, Melissa, Brad, Drew; Erik (Amarillo); Lisa (Arlington, TX); Sara (Richmond, VA), husband Steven, Avery, and Ainsley. Other survivors include her sister and brother-in-law, Mary Lou and Martin Gabbert, and sister-in-law Myrna Williamson, all of St. Louis; brother-in-law Jim Frohnapfel of Jupiter, FL; many nieces and nephews; and two grand-dogs, Millie and Becca.
Special thanks to the Village at Ware Living Center and to Hospice of the Southwest for all their loving care and tremendous support. In lieu of flowers, the family encourages others to remember Edna through memorials to the Edna & Olen Wilson Scholarship Fund at Opportunity Plan, Inc, PO Box 1035, Canyon, TX 79015-1035. This fund will award college scholarships for students graduating from the Presbyterian Home for Children.
A celebration of her life will be 3pm, Saturday, August 25th at First Presbyterian Church, Amarillo. Family will be present at the church for visitation at 2:30pm and takes comfort in knowing that Edna is now free to dance at will.