Richard Walter Wilson – Lieutenant Colonel, United States Army

When squirrels snatched goodies from his bird feeder, as they do most everywhere, he mounted a counteroffensive.

When it failed, he launched another and kept tweaking it until he built a contraption that baffled the marauders.

“Now the squirrels don't even try; he took their fun away,” said Cate Walden, his daughter.

“He was a rare breed; my dad knew how to do almost anything. If he didn't, he'd read a book and be an expert the next day.”

The squirrel baffle was one of his many accomplishments.

Wilson, who died Wednesday at 78, was a decorated soldier who rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel before his retirement in 1971.

Once A Commander …

His family called him a Renaissance man for good reason.

Once off active duty, he earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in business from the University of South Florida, but he quickly punted thoughts of a second career.

“When you're a commander and young guys start telling you what to do, well, he said no thanks,” his daughter said Monday.

As for his days as a commander, he was Crosbie Saint's first.

The now-retired four-star general was a young officer under Wilson in 1959. Saint said Wilson's style helped persuade him to stay in the Army for a career that spanned 35 years.

“He was demanding, but he'd also let you do your thing if you were right,” Saint said from his farm in Virginia.

“He believed you should be in the field once a month, and he'd come in the middle of the night to check your security. When I became a general, I did the same thing. He was a masterful leader.

“He had character and a great sense of humor.”

Wilson earned the Legion of Merit medal in 1968 and 1971.

“You earned it for two things – for bravery and, in his case, for being excellent at doing your job. He was a superb soldier,” Saint said.

Served In Germany, Korea

Wilson joined the Army in 1948, went to officer candidate school two years later and served in Korea and Germany during his years in the service. He will be buried October 27, 2006, at Arlington National Cemetery.

“They do 28 funerals a day and have an incredible waiting list,” Walden said. “But that's where dad wanted to be.”

He also wanted his family to be independent.

Walden uses the “car story” as an example.

“Dad used to tune up our cars and insisted that we sit in the garage while he did that,” she said.

He wouldn't tolerate them going to the mall while he did the work.

“We eventually got bored enough to begin asking questions, and we learned how to change oil, regap points and plugs and do some of the minor diagnostics,” she said.

Wilson's family will remember his laughter.

“Even on his death bed, we were cracking jokes,” his daughter said. “That's his legacy.”

Born: August 6, 1928, in Conesville, Ohio
Died: September 13, 2006, in Tampa, Florida

Survivors: His wife of 57 years, Elaine; a son, Richard of Seffner; three daughters, Catherine Walden of Cary, North Carolina, Susan Kragh of Jacksonville and Cheryl Wilson of Atlanta; four grandchildren and numerous nieces and nephews

Services: Burial October 27, 2006, at Arlington National Cemetery

Memorials: H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center at the University of South Florida or the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital in Tampa, Florida.

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