Stephen Armor Wilson entered into rest on February 7, 2020 after 90 years of life, about which he wrote, “I could not have asked for more,” and which in many ways traced an emblematic California story. Stephen was born in Santa Monica, CA to a fifth-generation homesteading mother and a first-generation Swedish immigrant father, who traversed the state designing and building California’s oil refineries. The family finally settled in Berkeley in 1938, where Steve fell in love with the streetcars and attended Berkeley public schools. In 1951, he earned a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley.
He soon joined an engineering training program at the General Electric Company, earning $2,700 a year. That was the start of a 40-year career as an engineering statistician in GE’s Nuclear Energy Division, during which GE sent him to Stanford University to earn an MS in Statistics. On several occasions, he traveled to Washington, D.C. to present his safety analyses of GE’s nuclear reactor program before federal regulators at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission; his work never failed to hold up under scrutiny.
Stephen’s career at GE was interrupted for four years of service in the U.S. Navy as an aviation ground officer with Naval Air Station Alameda and aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Bennington. While in the Navy, he met and married Ellen Lucile Kattwinkel of Newton, MA, a graduate of Mount Holyoke College and Harvard-Radcliffe who taught high school English and presaged the women’s movement of the 1970s in her efforts to secure equal funding for women’s sports under federal Title IX. She predeceased Steve in 1999.
Stephen’s family settled in Los Gatos, CA, where he meticulously planned and launched many ambitious backcountry trips to the Sierra Nevada. A proud Cal Bear, he was a lifelong learner who proclaimed, “I have more than 50 linear feet of books and not a single one of them is fiction!” Beginning at age 57, he learned to read, write and speak Swedish in order to reconnect with Swedish cousins. He was a longtime supporter of organizations working to safeguard the environment, advance social justice and women’s rights, and protect American democratic institutions. Steve was a deeply caring, patient parent and a loyal friend and neighbor whose humor and generous spirit will be missed by all who knew him.
Stephen Wilson is survived by his sister, Doris Kessell, of Watsonville, CA and her family; his children, Scott Wilson (Elizabeth Wilson) of Aptos, CA; Michael Wilson (Megan Schwarzman) of Berkeley, CA; and Martha Wilson of Los Gatos, CA; his grandchildren, Kathryn Loeffler (Marcus Loeffler) of Greenville, SC; Garrett Wilson (Katherine Tribley, to be) of Santa Cruz, CA; Deirdre Wilson (Ryan Corley, to be), of Los Angeles, CA; Nathan Wilson (Sarah Wilson) and Brendan Kersey-Wilson of Los Angeles, CA; and Oliver Wilson, of Berkeley, CA; great-grandchild Eleni Loeffler of Greenville, SC; and cousins Bob Wilson (Marion Wilson) and Marty Wilson (Carol Wilson) of Rancho Santa Fe, CA, and their families.
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