Ray Wilder, 100Published 4:00pm Sunday, May 20, 2012
Ray Wilder, 100
Born: Oct. 11, 1911
Died: May 15, 2012
At the age of 100, Ray Andrew Wilder passed away Tuesday, May 15, 2012, at Forest Glen Assisted Living in Dowagiac. He was born Oct. 11, 1911, in Dowagiac, the son of George Purdy and Lydia Adell (Judd) Wilder.
He is survived by his daughters, Lydia (Jack) Gould of Dowagiac and Georgia Wilder of Royal Oak; grandchildren Heidi (Scott) Burgess, Carin (Jeff) Reese, Vicki (Mark) Anders, Heather (Paul) Surdykowski and Scott Heimke; and nine great-grandchildren. His wife of 66 years, the former Edna Victoria Bergstrom, and his brother, Rex Charles Wilder, preceded him in death.
Wilder graduated from Three Rivers High School in 1928 and Michigan College of Mining and Technology (Michigan Tech) in 1932, where he was recently honored as their oldest living alumnus. He earned his pharmacy degree at Grand Rapids University in order to join the family business in Benton Harbor.
A veteran of the U.S. Army, Wilder served during World War II as captain of the 1333rd Engineer General Service Regiment, operating out of Marseille, France.
After the war, he worked at Wilder’s Drug Store, 696 E. Main. He built a new Wilder’s Drug Store across Benton Street at 710 E. Main. The new drug store and pharmacy handled schoolbooks, and later, an array of bestsellers. Wilder’s Book Store opened in downtown Benton Harbor and later moved to St. Joseph.
Wilder was active in local politics, serving on the Benton Harbor School Board, the Benton Township Board and as Benton Township supervisor from 1965 to 1970.
He remained active in Republican Party politics. Married to a Swede, he belonged to the Swedish VASA Lodge.
In 1973 the Wilders moved to Magician Lake, where Ray spent his time fishing, traveling and collecting and recounting family history. For many years, Ray and Edna rarely missed a Saturday night dance. He worked as pharmacist, and later as a volunteer, at Benton Harbor Mercy Hospital. He became Cass County Republican Party chairman. In 1988, they moved back to the Benton Harbor/St. Joe area.
He was an avid trumpet player for 88 years, performing in dance bands during college and The Twin Cities Symphony while in Benton Harbor. He marched in Franklin Roosevelt’s first inauguration parade in 1933. He was known and respected by many in the community.
Ray’s body was bequeathed to Wayne State University School of Medicine. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Leader Dogs, 1039 South Rochester Rd., Rochester Hills, MI 48307; Senior Centers of Dowagiac or St. Joe, MI; or a charity of the donor’s choosing. Remembrance services will be at Forest Glen Wednesday, May 30, 2:00, and Berrien Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 4330 Lincoln Ave, St. Joseph, July 1, at 10:30 a.m., as part of their morning service.