Wilson was born in Jacksonville, Fl on May 9, 1914 to Fred
Mollie Wilson. Their home was The
riverboat moored at the bottom of Roselle St. in the St. John's River.
Mollie had heard tales of this state of Florida that was full of nothing but alligators and snakes with lots of sand thrown in. She had no desire to live among the animals and said she would marry him provided they lived on a boat.
After the birth of his brother, Ralph, the family moved on shore at the suggestion of friends who felt the boys might drown while playing on the boat.
The Wilson's cruised up and down the St. John's River and chose a spot next to the booming waterfront of Palatka sporting a fish house, 2 feed stores and the train track which ran down a nearby street and crossed the St. Johns. The home they built was 3 stories high with a basement. They built 3 garages, a double one for cars and 2 for the sailboats and small fishing boats the boys grew to love. Wilson Cypress Company was the family business for years. The Cypress wood chosen for the house had very few knots since the family could pick and choose the wood. The house was outfitted with a dumb waiter which doubled as a laundry drop sending clothes from the second floor to the basement, central vacuum system, fireplaces in two of the upstairs bedrooms as well as living room, dining room and den.
The boys spent much time on the river. They were allowed to go up river to Lake George and spend the night on an island in the company of a family retainer.
All was not fun and games for Herbert and Ralph however. His parents felt that the public school was not up to par and hired Miss Roddy to teach the boys at home until they were ready to enter high school. After graduating from Palatka, Herbert went to the University of Florida.
He served in the US Navy Air Corps during World War II as a pilot. He loved being in the air.
He loved woodworking as well and used his talent around the house. The family had several sailboats that he loved to take out on the river. For years there was always a boat at the house.
He met Ruth Howard McMillan at a house party and they were married July 19, 1948. They enjoyed doing things together. Golf, bridge and boating were among his pastimes. He worked as an abstractor and bought the business, Palatka Abstract & Title Inc., when the owner wanted to sell. Upon his retirement the grandson of the former owner bought the business back.
He was a member, Vestry member, Senior Warden, and took on whatever tasks were needed in his church, St. Mark's Episcopal Church. The church members were pleased he didn't volunteer to sing in the choir however. He and his wife entertained the bishops and other visitors from out of town since they were within walking distance of the church and enjoyed people. Their home on the river was a relaxing place to spend a night or two.
They never had any children of their own but were godparents to many of the children in the church. They enjoyed going on weekend trips in their boat with several other families and often the children would ride in their boat. He also stood in as father-of-the-bride for his two nieces who had lost their father early in their childhood. He was very supportive of his family. The love for his wife was very evident. He pampered her. He was of the old school where a gentleman opened the car door for the lady. This was one thing he wished to continue even though she was capable of opening her own door.
He loved the ocean as well. He and Ruth Howard would often take a picnic supper and head for Crescent Beach after work where he enjoyed a swim before eating. He attended Baseball games here and walked in Ravine Gardens. His interests were varied. He read a lot. They also took several cruises, one even up the Mississippi as well as around the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico and the Panama Canal. When TV became popular, they enjoyed watching documentaries and travel shows.
He took great interest in things going on in Palatka. He was active on the Library board, Historical Society board, First Federal Board of Directors, and Kiwanis. After his death 16 Mar 1989 in the hospital at Gainesville, Fl, letters pored in as well as newspaper tributes speaking of his gentle way of dealing with people. He could come into a room where there was a great disagreement going on and in a few minutes, the problem was solved and peace reigned again. A rare gift indeed.
He is buried in the family plot in Oak Lawn East.