W. Raymond Wilson, 95, started electric company

January 17, 1998|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

W. Raymond Wilson, who established the venerable Wilson Electric Co. in Towson, died Sunday of complications from Alzheimer's disease at Edenwald Retirement Community. He was 95.

Mr. Wilson opened the business in 1919 with his father in an old clapboard house in the 400 block of York Road, a site now occupied by Borders Books and Music.

At a time when most houses relied on gaslight or kerosene lamps for illumination, Mr. Wilson and his father were responsible for installing electricity in many Baltimore County homes and businesses.

The company supervised the installation of electricity in county schools for years. In 1929, it brought electricity to Hampton Mansion, one of the nation's premier Georgian residences, now a national historic site.

When Metropolitan Opera diva Rosa Ponselle was building Villa Pace, her Green Spring Valley home, Mr. Wilson handled the electrical installation. She remained a customer until her death.

Known for his energy, Mr. Wilson was still climbing around

houses at age 79, making certain installations were performed to his satisfaction.

In 1927, he married Hilda M. Nolte, who went to work in the business overseeing the retail operation.

The store was known for its old-fashioned service and neighborly atmosphere.

Customers visiting Wilson's cramped store and showroom walked across creaking wooden floors as they sought parts and advice for household treasures, such as old lamps. Fixtures were often made whole because of the shop's vast inventory of obscure parts.

"For many years they lived on top of the store," said Bjorg O. Wilson, a daughter-in-law who lives in Bethesda, "and for years Hilda had the largest selection of lamp shades south of New York."

Mr. Wilson, a quiet man who was seldom without his gray fedora, enjoyed chewing but not smoking cigars. He was respected by his employees and customers for his mechanical knowledge and his ability to fix just about anything.

"He was very businesslike and didn't stand for a lot of foolishness, but was easy to get along with and like," said Harry E. Lilley, who managed the store for 24 years until he retired in 1988.

Mr. Wilson also could be an engaging talker.

"Sometimes he'd be so wrapped up in what he was talking about he'd forget to shift gears or drive off the road," said Joseph B. Ohler, who lives in Rosedale and retired in 1988 after 45 years as an electrician with the company.

Mr. Wilson, formerly a longtime resident of the Woodbrook section of Baltimore County, sold the company in 1982. It is now at the southeast corner of York Road and Towsontown Boulevard in Towson.

An inveterate student of the Civil War, Mr. Wilson enjoyed walking visitors across battlefields and pointing out the strategy of the generals and the drama of the battle.

He also enjoyed collecting antiques and playing poker.

Mr. Wilson was born and raised in Relay and graduated from City College in 1917. He attended the Johns Hopkins University, where he studied electrical engineering.

He was a founder of Towson Presbyterian Church, 400 W. Chesapeake Ave. in Towson, where a memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. today. In addition to his wife, Mr. Wilson is survived by a sister, Charlotte W. Kakel of Towson; three grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

His son, Theodore R. Wilson, died in 1970, and his daughter, Barbara J. Kincaid, died in 1976.

Pub Date: 1/17/98

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