82, retired, and not slowing down: NEJC woman making 10th trip to Africa, finishing fourth book

Priscilla Wilson in her home office with her book “A Pioneer Love Story.”

Longtime northeast Johnson County resident Priscilla Wilson is putting finishing touches on her third and fourth books, getting ready for her 10th trip to Africa next month, is adding to her accomplishments as a birder and just upgraded her home office with a new 27-inch iMac. This is what retirement looks like at 82.

To be fair, only the books were a product of retirement. She has been traveling the world for decades and the photography and birding started long, long ago. And her first Apple computer was an Apple IIe – not even recognizable to most Mac users today.

Her first book, “The Facilitative Way” came out in 2003. Wilson says she retired from TeamTech, the company she started in 1989, specifically to write that book. “It’s mantra is that everyone is a leader,” she says. The book lays out “practical methods for leading a meeting.”

Her second book, “A Pioneer Love Story,” (available at Bruce Smith Drugs and Rainy Day Books) came out in 2008. Inspired by finding letters of her grandmother, Minnie Hobart, among her late parents’ possessions, Wilson wrote the story of her grandmother’s life and a history of the Texas panhandle. That book earned first place from the Oklahoma Writers Federation in 2009.

One of her new books might be called a love story of a different sort. It is the tale of the education of young Cooper’s Hawks. The hawks had built a nest across the street from Wilson’s Mission Hills home (she now lives in Claridge Court in Prairie Village) and had their young. Wilson, of course, would go over to take pictures. When the hatchlings learned to fly, mother hawk brought them to the tree outside Wilson’s home office to teach them the lessons of life.

The well photographed chronicle of months of the young hawks’ education became a book that has already won an Oklahoma Writers award for middle grades this year without the pictures being added for its final form.

And Wilson’s fourth book is nearly complete, written with long-time friend Kaze Gadway and telling the stories of their lives. “The stories reflect the fact that we meet the sacred every day. The sacred is always present,” she says. “Rod is as much in the book as we are,” she says, referring to her husband of 59 years who died two years ago. One of the stories involves how Kaze acquired the name she now uses while on the verge of death from malaria in a Kenyan hospital (she survived).

Wilson’s life should have generated plenty of stories. She and Rodney traveled the world as volunteers for the Institute of Cultural Affairs, working in developing villages to help the residents determine and realize their futures. He later volunteered for Rotary service projects abroad as well. Their first overseas trip was a 21-day around the world tour in 1970.

Her first trip to Africa included stops in several villages for development evaluation and ended with “10 days in a Nairobi hospital.” The experience was no deterrent to a life of travel. Her next African trip will have a party of 10 – all of her children and grandchildren (the four great grandchildren are staying home). The love of both photography and birding have passed down through the generations, which include professional photographers and passionate birders. A son has logged more than 1,000 sightings of different birds (Wilson herself may be closer to 2,000).

Her large apartment is filled with pictures – family, birds, trips – and memorabilia from the villages abroad. Plenty of material for the next book.