Remembering Lois Wilde

Lois Wilde celebrated her 92nd birthday at the North Dakota Museum of Art
Lois Wilde celebrated her 92nd birthday at the North Dakota Museum of Art

Long time Associate Editor of Sports Afield and Trustee of the North Dakota Museum of Art, Lois Elizabeth Wilde died on May 10, 2020 at Edgewood Parkwood Place in Grand Forks. She was born in 1922 in Grand Forks, attended local public schools, and graduated in 1944 from the University of North Dakota with a major in journalism and a minor in political science. One fortuitous outcome of the war years was that with the campus stripped of most male students, Lois Wilde was named the editor of the Dakota Student, setting the precedent for years to come.

After graduation she and her coterie of female friends from the Dakota Student crew moved to Chicago (according to Dave Vorland in his 1983 UND Centennial interview with Ms. Wilde). She took a job at Sears Roebuck before joining the Minneapolis-based magazine Sports Afield. When the company moved to New York in 1953 Lois Wilde found a new love, the city of New York. But Ms. Wilde resigned her editorial job when she realized she was making considerably less than the man sitting next to her “who had a family” but was doing the same work.

Lois Wilde in the Sports Afield office
Lois Wilde in the Sports Afield office

In 1977, after spending ten years in advertising, Sports Afield again came calling. Chief Editor Tom Paugh was worried that the existing editorial focus had gone awry. He planned to drop over half the readership to 500,000 and publish important writers of exciting adventure stories, well-informed how-to-do-it pieces, and conservation as it impacted hunting and fishing. Such writers would need to be matched with highly skilled, experienced outdoor editors. Lois Wilde was among them. She accepted.

Surprisingly, it wasn’t hunting or fishing that occupied her private life, although over the years she learned much about the outdoor world. For example, Mr. Vorland asked her about the rumored story about a cougar with the pointed ears. ‘When the painter hired to illustrate it turned it in to Ms. Wilde, she quickly pointed out that cougars have round, rather than pointed ears. The artist corrected the picture, explaining that he had used his house cat as his model.’

What did dominate Lois Wilde’s personal life was the arts. Once ensconced in her five-story walk-up apartment in midtown New York, she squirreled away her money to give herself a four-year sabbatical doing nothing but immersing herself in New York’s cultural life. Even after returning to work, four nights a week found her at the opera, the theater, the ballet, or on weekends at matinees or art exhibitions. Thrilled with the City, she knew it would be her permanent home.

It wasn’t until 1976 that she finally went to Africa on a Kenya trip with a Sports Afield group. She followed up on her own with excursions to Tanzania and South Africa. Decades later one of her greatest pleasures was a drive to Kelly’s Slough Wildlife Refuge west of Grand Forks to see which birds had taken up residence or were migrating through.

When she reached retirement age she knew she couldn’t afford to stay in her beloved New York City so moved back to Minneapolis. Then in 2004 she returned to Grand Forks to be near family. During the years from 2001 to 2017, she continued her immersion in the arts joining a small Minneapolis group 34 times to attend operas in the leading Houses of the world including La Scala in Milan and La Fenice in Venice, Italy; Teatro Colon, Buenos Aires; The Bolshoi in Moscow; New York’s Lincoln Center; The Sydney Opera House; and the Teatro di San Carlo in Naples, Italy.

Ms. Wilde also immersed herself in the Grand Forks cultural scene, supporting groups such as the community’s Symphony Orchestra, but especially the North Dakota Museum of Art where she seldom missed an exhibition or a concert, be it the Classical Series or Summer Concerts in the Garden. She also resumed her life-long engagement with language by becoming the Museum’s volunteer editor whose final job was Eliot Glassheim’s last book, My Father’s Keeper. From 2010 until her death she served as a Museum Trustee. Lois Wilde’s last request was that she be buried in the Thompson, North Dakota cemetery, she be given a celebratory toast at the Museum, and that memorials be given to the North Dakota Museum of Art.

Museum Director Laurel Reuter described her as “intelligent, thoughtful, a lovely companion and conversationalist with that sprightly giggle of hers. She was fun! Her personal code was don’t gossip, don’t complain about how you feel, stay cheerful for yourself and those around you, and stay engaged in the world.”

The Wilde family were early settlers in the Red River Valley. Lois Wilde’s Great Grandfather Franz Louis Wilde (1832 – 1907) came to America from Germany in 1852 when he was 20 years old. He married Doretta Kreitzer (1831 – 1887). They were followed by Ms. Wilde’s Grandparents, Charles A. Wilde (1863 – 1934) and Delilah A. Wardman (1878 – 1909).

Lois Wilde is survived by nieces and nephews Linda (Russ) Penn, Grand Forks; Vickie Lee, Grand Forks; Scott (Sheryl) Wilde, Thompson; and Jeffrey (Kristine) Wilde, Thompson.

Preceded in death by her father Edwin Ralph Wilde Sr. (1898 – 1951); her mother Esther Ovida Burr Wilde (1897 – 1954); and her brother Edwin Wilde Jr. (1923 – 2010).