Donald Martin Wilder, 90, of Medina, died Thursday, May 4, 2017 at Hospice of Medina County. He was born March 5, 1927, to Paul and Rhea (Ryan) Wilder in Wadsworth and grew up in LeRoy, Ohio (now Westfield Center).
He met the love of his life, (Mary) Hope Huffman, at a Friday night band concert on the Medina square in 1944. He next saw her at a Medina football game where friends jokingly declared them married. Thereafter, they had eyes only for each other and were married June 12, 1947, at Medina First Congregational Church (now United Church of Christ). Don and Hope helped her father (Art Huffman) build their first house, at 748 North Court, which is still standing across the street from Waite's funeral home.
Don played trumpet in the local Boy Scout band when it traveled to the New York World's Fair in 1939, later taking up tenor sax due to a lip injury in boxing class. Playing center, he earned all-county basketball honors in 1944. Graduating in a class of 25 from Westfield High School in 1944, he enjoyed coordinating annual class reunions for many years.
He used his graphic art skills to letter the honor roll of WWII Veterans on the Medina square. After a semester in art at Oberlin College, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy in February 1945, completed basic training at Sampson, New York and started officer training at Ole Miss. After the war ended, Don was discharged in May 1946. He then entered Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, as an accounting major, finishing the requirements for a B.S. in Business, August 28, 1948. The following Monday, he began working at the Ohio Farmers Insurance Company, LeRoy, Ohio, now the Westfield Group, in Westfield Center. Don's father, Paul Wilder and his aunt, Bess Wilder were both employed there at that time. In 1972, the company sent Don to Harvard University to earn an MBA. Don eventually became president and chairman of the board at Westfield Companies, retiring in 1991 with 43 years of service. Interestingly, his career there actually began at 12, caddying and doing maintenance. He took particular pleasure in coordinating research, compilation of photos and artifacts, editing and printing of the Ohio Farmers history book, published in 1985. His coworkers would describe him as "such a gentleman," a uniquely humble servant-leader with appreciation and regard for all people, respectfully greeting everyone, regardless of station. He always seemed to know the right thing to say. He would no doubt take issue with all these compliments.
Don was a faithful member of the Medina United Church of Christ, Congregational since 1948, teaching Sunday School, singing in the choir and serving on various committees and as deacon and moderator. At the state level, he oversaw the conference church camp at Pilgrim Hills. At the national level, he served on the Lay Life and Work committee. He grew up in the LeRoy Methodist Church. Over the years, he and Hope have also been members of the First Presbyterian Church in Hilton Head, the Pullen Memorial Baptist Church and most recently the Umstead Park United Church of Christ, both in Raleigh, North Carolina.
He served his community as a Cub Scout "den mother" and Boy Scout leader and as a board member for Medina Community Hospital, 169 (MRDD) and YMCA. For many years he worked at the polls on election day, eventually becoming a presiding judge. He served on the Medina County Republican Executive Committee, various planning and development committees and homelessness and human relations councils. He enjoyed singing in barbershop groups in Medina and Hilton Head and acting with Medina Masquers. In his later years, he was a volunteer driver in Hilton Head and in Medina would distribute games and puzzles to residents in the nursing section of his Western Reserve Masonic Community (telling Hope, "It's time for me to go pass out.")
Don's sense of humor was his trademark. He delighted his grandchildren, himself and many others with magic and card tricks, jokes, puns and whimsical drawings. He had an enduring interest in genealogy, the Civil War (especially the Underground Railroad), enjoyed beach combing in Hilton Head, steamboating on the Mississippi, dude ranching out West, dancing, golfing at Westfield, running (from his 40's into his 60's), jigsaw puzzles and anything chocolate. He completed a retirement project in the 90's by walking 278.7 miles between the 17 township centers of Medina County (round trips). He enjoyed bicycling county roads, especially to Seville and Chippewa Lake from their condo at Westfield on the Green.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by his son, Robert (Christine Chandler) of Medina and son-in-law, Steve Zetts (Jeff Holland) of Raleigh, North Carolina; granddaughters, Erica (Miguel) Panetta of El Paso, Texas, Heidi (Kevin) Knoll of Asheville, North Carolina and Molly (Logan Dwyer) of Washington, DC; great-grandchildren, Clara and Leanor Panetta, Everett and Alice Knoll; sisters-in-law, Diana (Howard) Hunter of Medina and Pauline (Brent Huffman) Winebrenner Carpenter of Richardson, Texas and numerous nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his parents; his brother, Robert (Darlene Douglas); sons, Paul and John and brother-in-law and sister-in-law, Howard and Joy (Huffman) Hunter.
A Celebration of Don's life (and honoring Don and Hope's 70th wedding anniversary) will take place at 11 A.M., Saturday, June 3, 2017, at Medina United Church of Christ, Congregational, 217 E Liberty St. Lunch will follow in Fellowship Hall. The family will greet friends at calling hours, at Waite and Son Funeral Home, 765 N Court St., Medina Friday, June 2, 2017 from 5 to 7 P.M. and after the Celebration Saturday, June 3, 2017. The family welcomes guests, including those unable to attend the service, to greet them at the church from 12 Noon to 2 P.M. A private Graveside Ceremony will precede the celebration.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to Medina United Church of Christ. 217 E. Liberty, Medina, OH 44256, the Umstead Park United Church of Christ, 8208 Brownleigh Dr, Raleigh, NC 27617, SHC/The Arc of Medina County, 4283 Paradise Rd., Seville, OH 44273, Western Reserve Masonic Community Memory Unit, 4931 Nettleton Rd., Medina, OH 44256, or Hospice of Medina County, 5075 Windfall Rd., Medina, OH 44256.
Online condolences may be left at waitefuneralhome.com