Elinor Wilson, 91, Widow of Former
G.C. President, Passes Away
Mother of current G.C. president was teacher, shared 68-year marriage
BY ADVENTIST REVIEW staff
Elinor Esther Neumann Wilson, 91, the wife and mother of world leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, passed to her rest on the morning of June 8, 2011, at a care facility in in Dayton, Maryland.
PRESIDENTIAL WIFE AND MOTHER: Elinor Esther Neumann Wilson, 91, the wife and mother of world leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, passed to her rest on the morning of June 8, 2011, at a care facility in in Dayton, Maryland. [AR file photos]
Her passing came almost six months to the day from the December 14, 2010 death of her husband of 68 years, Pastor Neal C. Wilson, who had led the General Conference, the movement’s top administrative body, for 11 years. Their son, Pastor Ted N.C. Wilson, was elected the 20th president of the General Conference on June 25, 2010.
“My mother was an extremely loyal, careful, and encouraging person,” Pastor Ted Wilson wrote
in the June 2011 issue of Adventist World
magazine. “She showed me a personal love for Jesus as a Savior and a friend and instilled in others a simple trust in the teachings of the Word and what it means to be a Seventh-day Adventist Christian.”
Mrs. Wilson was born January 21, 1920 and grew up in Chicago, Illinois. Her parents, Joseph Neumann from Budapest, Hungary, and Theresa Wehrderich from Velgersdorf, Austria, separately immigrated to the United States and met in the Chicago’s German-speaking community. When Elinor was very young, her mother became a Seventh-day Adventist through evangelistic meetings in the German language and joined the German Seventh-day Adventist Church in Chicago.
Elinor’s father was a barber, and her mother worked at a number of jobs at the same time, including stretching curtains and seamstress work, to put her children through Seventh-day Adventist schools. Elinor’s mother died at age 42 when Elinor was still in college.
Elinor Neumann first attended what was then Emmanuel Missionary College, known today as Andrews University. She then moved to Pacific Union College, and met Neal Wilson. Immediately after the two were married in 1942, they prepared for missionary service, first ministering in Wyoming, and then undertaking Arabic language classes at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, located at the time in Washington, D.C.
APPOINTMENT DAY: Mrs. Wilson, at left, speaks with Pastor Robert Pierson, then-president of the General Conference, after 1978 meeting at which her late husband, Pastor Neal C. Wilson, was named to succeed Pierson.
The Wilsons departed for Egypt in 1944 in the midst of World War II. The young couple employed just about every mode of transportation available to journey through Africa in order to reach Cairo, Egypt -- it was impossible to proceed through the Mediterranean Sea during those turbulent days.
During her years in Egypt, Mrs. Wilson began teaching in an elementary school, a career that continued when the family moved to Maryland. Mrs. Wilson taught second graders at John Nevins Andrews School for many years, leaving that work to support her husband in his extensive ministry travels.
Neal Wilson was named president of the church's North American Division in 1966. He served in that post until his appointment as world church president in 1979.
Unlike her ebullient, outgoing husband, Elinor Wilson “was not necessarily a public person,” her son wrote, “except that she was a second-grade teacher who loved to inculcate beautiful spiritual truths in her young scholars. She knew how to do that and did it very well.”
Mrs. Wilson’s brother, Richard Dunbar, M.D., of Loma Linda, CA; her children Shirley Wilson-Anderson and Ted Wilson; grandchildren Emilie Wilson DeVasher, Elizabeth Wilson Wright, Catherine Wilson Renck, Jonathan Anderson; and great-grandchildren Lauren Wright, Matthew Wright, Henry DeVasher, Charlotte Renck, and Maryanne Wright, all survive. Two siblings preceded her in death: Sue Miklos and John Neumann, Jr.