Nov. 7, 1924 – May 14, 2017
Melvin N. Wilson Jr. was born in San Diego, California, on Nov. 7, 1924.
His parents were Frances Schaffer Wilson and Melvin N. Wilson. His dad was a prominent banker in San Diego. Mel attended Point Loma High School in San Diego; he received his Bachelor of Science in 1945 from Caltech and his Master of Science and aeronautics in 1946 from the same institution.
He was first employed by Bryan Aeronautics, then by the South Pacific Railroad as a consultant to industry, and from 1953 to 1994 he was employed at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge. Mel designed wind tunnels and technical facilities, including several solar simulators, the largest of which has been designated a national historical monument due to its size and the innovative use of optics, cryogenic high vacuums and other techniques simulating space environment. He received the NASA exceptional service award at retirement, as well as a number of other commendations during his career.
Mel is a past master of the Masons and he was a member of La Cañada Kiwanis and La Cañada Presbyterian Church, where he was a long-time member and skipper of Seafarers. He was a member of the La Cañada volunteer emergency support team, and a member of Descanso Gardens Guild, where he delivered for Meals on Wheels. His interests and hobbies were deep sea, lake and stream fishing, hunting, gardening, bridge, golf, square dancing and world travel. He also flew his own airplane.
Mel married Adina Marie Wagner in 1949 and they had two children, Cynthia Murray and Andrew Wilson, had four grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. Mel and his wife Adina (Dee), who predeceased him in 2013, were longtime residents of La Cañada Flintridge until they moved to University Village in Thousand Oaks, California, in 2009.
Mel was known for his dry humor and critical thinking. Services for Mel are pending.