John Knox Wilson ’39

Dr. John Knox Wilson, age 99 years, 11 months and 4 days, of Black Mountain left this world Wednesday, May 4 in Black Mountain, NC. John was born in Kwangju, Korea on May 29, 1916. He lived in Korea until he graduated from high School. His parents, Robert M. Wilson and Bess Knox Wilson were medical missionaries who met in Korea in 1908.

He was preceded in death by his parents and his sisters, Elizabeth and Mary Stuart; and his brothers James, Robert, Ed, and Joe. He was the last leaf on their tree as he often said. He was also preceded in death by his daughter, Elizabeth Ann Seto.

His survivors include his wife of almost 68 years, Nancy Dupuy Wilson; daughter, Susan Mucci (Richard); sons, John Wilson Jr. (Mary), Dudley Wilson (Alice Coblentz), Peter Wilson, and Frank Wilson (Amy Fuller). Grandchildren left in awe include Lauren Seto, Katy Seto, Emily Wilson, Luke Wilson, Daniel Wilson, Rose Wilson, Tucker Wilson, Ruby Wilson, Maddy Wilson, Gretalyn Easler, Molly Dockery, Hannah Creel, Joe Fuller, and David Wilson; and great grandson, Max Seto.

He graduated from high school at Pyongyang Foreign School in Pyongyang, Korea in 1935 and from Davidson College in 1939.He attended medical school at Jefferson Medical College in 1943 and then served in the army in Korea alongside his father. After his discharge, he completed his pediatric training at MCV in Richmond, Virginia where he was Chief Resident.

He married Nancy Dupuy in 1948 and set up a private pediatric medical practice in Greensboro, NC. In 1966 the family moved to Sacramento, CA where he worked at a Kaiser Permanente clinic for two years.

John’s life was dedicated to service. In 1968 the family moved to Korea where he worked setting up rural clinics and at the leprosy hospital his father had started in 1911. In 1971, the family moved to Scottsville, Virginia where John worked in a rural clinic in Buckingham County while also serving as an associate professor at the University of Virginia Medical School. Then, in 1973 the family moved to Whitesburg, Kentucky where John worked in the Daniel Boone Clinic.

In 1975 he and Nancy moved to Black Mountain, NC where they became active members of the Black Mountain Presbyterian Church where he sang in the choir for many years. He set up his final private practice office and retired 10 years later.

Beginning in the years prior to his retirement, John answered the call to volunteer in refugee clinics all over the world—with Cambodian refugees in Thailand, with massacre survivors in Beirut, victims of famine in Somalia, and many other places around the world.

In his 80’s he created an economical greenhouse design delivering hundreds of greenhouse kits to families in North Korea and Bolivia.

Gardening was another passion of John’s. He had always gardened and when he moved to Black Mountain, his front yard included Lake Tomahawk, which at the time was surrounded by briars and debris. He and Nancy worked to clean up the area around the lake and he started garden beds there.

After several years the beds became more than he needed and he offered them to others to use. This was convenient, in that it also was discovered that these beds weren’t actually on his property but were on town property. The Town of Black Mountain was enlisted to take them over as the first phase of its community garden.

Demand for garden beds quickly overtook the number of beds available and a piece of property off Blue Ridge Road owned by the town was designated the new community garden. John worked there every day during spring, summer, and fall building garden beds, composting, building sheds, and teaching new gardeners his love of gardening. He kept detailed records of the tons of vegetables donated to soup kitchens and food banks.

Other passions included woodworking and birding. Winter time, when garden work wasn’t active, was the time for him to be in the workshop making toys, furniture, squirrel traps and other projects. While birding was a lifelong pursuit, he particularly enjoyed it when he became less active and was able to view the birds visiting his feeders from his living room overlooking Lake Tomahawk. He estimated that he had seen 300 different varieties of birds from his home.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in his honor to Christian Friends of Korea ( or to the Dr. John Wilson Community Garden through the Black Mountain Parks and Greenways Foundation, Black Mountain Recreation and Parks, 101 Carver Avenue Black Mountain, NC 28711.

Services will be held at Black Mountain Presbyterian church on Saturday, June 18th at 2 PM.

Arrangements by Harwood Home for Funerals.

Published in the Asheville Citizen-Times on May 8, 2016