In Memory

Brenton "Brent" Wilson - Class Of 1942

Brenton Brent Wilson

Brenton Wilson  '42 of Fort Jones, California passed away peacefully on October 28, 2007, at Fairchild Medical Center in Yreka, California.  Brent was born on January 2, 1924 in Alhambra, CA to parents Helen and Jerry Wilson of South Pasadena, and was one of three children.  He graduated from South Pasadena-San Marino High School in 1942.

In 1943, just after turning 19, Brent was drafted into the Army in the first contingency of the 18-year-old draft after Congress lowered the draft age from 21 to 18.  He reported to Camp McQuaid on the Monterey Peninsula as a member of the Coast Artillery Corps, Army of the United States.  He was part of a select group of recruits who were sent to Stanford University and UCLA in the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP).  After three weeks of testing at Stanford, six hours/day, his aptitude in all subjects was rated in the top 2% of the Army.  He was classified as a genius and was mentored by Dr. Terman, head of the Stanford Engineering Dept.  Dr. Terman received an Academy Award for Sound Engineering on the Disney animated film Fantasia.

Brent was trained as a radio specialist during WW II at UCLA.  He was one of twenty recruits in the nation to pass rigorous testing and was transferred to the Army Air Corps.  He served in several different units throughout the US, being transferred to wherever the radio communications were most crucial.  One of his last major assignments in early August 1945 was top secret and classified: He was charged with maintaining flawless radio communications on the Enola Gay on its mission that led to the Japanese surrender.

Foreign wars defined Brent's early years, as he served in the 452nd Bomb Wing Light Unit during the Korean War and was stationed on Honshu Island in the Japanese archipelago.  He was responsible for radio communications on the B-26's (light bombers).  Of all his accomplishments during the two wars, the one of which he was most proud was the Medal of Merit he was awarded by President Eisenhower for keeping radio communications alive during a typhoon and extreme combat conditions.  It is the highest non-combat award given by the U.S. Military.

On September 21, 1947, three years before he was recalled to the Korean War as a reservist, he married Ruth Williams '42 of South Pasadena.  They had three children:  Dianne, Barbara, and Tom.  At the time of Ruth's death in 1988, they had been married 41 years.  Throughout their entire marriage their passion was ballroom dancing, particularly fox trotting and swing stepping.

Brent moved his family to Etna, California in October 1966, from South Pasadena after working 22 years for Southern California Edison.  He was hired by Siskiyou Telephone Co. to design, develop, and implement a means of getting reliable telephone service into the bergs and hamlets in the surrounding mountains.  The system he engineered became the model for rural telecommunications worldwide and is still in use today.  His contribution in the field of microwave and radio engineering was the precursor to satellite and mobile phone technology.  The very first passive repeater installed in 1970 to refect radio waves transmitted from Siskiyou Telephone Co. in Fort Jones to other passive repeaters and, ultimately, to a receptor site, remains to this day on Pigeon's Roost in Baldy Gap on the outskirts of Fort Jones, California.

Brent was a longtime member of the Etna Lions Club, holding many offices, as well as that of Lions Eye Foundation Chair and Deputy District Governor of District 4C-1.  He was one of five founding members of the Lions Humanitarian Foundation in 1979 and was the only one of the five to receive the Humanitarian Director Emeritus Award for District 4C-1.

As co-founder of the National Association of Radio and Telecommunications Engineers (NARTE) in 1984, he was elected as a charter director and remained a director until his retirement from Siskiyou Telephone in January 1992.

Survivors include daughters Dianne Wilson of Fort Jones and Barbara Wilson of Sebastopol, California.; grandson Graham Goodenough of San Diego; granddaughter Anna Goodenough of Santa Clara; sister Dorothy Shay of Morro Bay; and companion Katherine Kerkes of Weed, CA.