OPINION

Remembering Kevin Wilson

Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy
Guest Columnist

Some years ago, country singer George Jones recorded a song titled “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes” about past country music greats and one of the lines in the refrain was “Who’s gonna fill their shoes? Who’s gonna stand that tall?”

Neosho lost a member of the community and a friend last week, a man who leaves behind a legacy and shoes that will be impossible to fill. Kevin Wilson stood tall in this town and his life.

Many readers will know him through his long-time column, “Standing In The Gap”. Others may remember his as a former Missouri State Representative (2002-2010). His name might ring familiar from the Neosho Exchange Club, the First Baptist Church, The Neosho School Board, Crowder Industries, Crowder College Foundation, Neosho Area Chamber of Commerce or his own consulting companies, Legacy Consulting Group. He might be recalled as human resources for more than one area company.  That’s just a few of the ways this man touched his community with his spirit, his servant’s heart and his love.

Kevin battled cancer for the past few years, surviving despite all odds, and had a difficult battle with COVID-19 that caused additional health problems, leaving remaining issues. One or both of those causes brought him down. He passed away as a community prayed for another miracle, surrounded by his family and friends.

A Goodman, Missouri native, Kevin attended Neosho High School and graduated in 1976. During his high school years, he was a member of the Air Force Junior ROTC and served as commander.  He received an Air Force Scholarship and graduated from the University of Missouri, Columbia before serving in the USAF. After being honorably discharged with the rank of Captain, he returned to the Neosho area.

 In 2002 he was elected to the Missouri House of Representatives for the local district and served eight years, the maximum term anyone can serve.  In 2018, he was awarded the Exchange Club Book of Golden Deeds (with Rick Holden), an honor that recognizes members for giving their time and talent to better their communities.

When interviewed by the Neosho Daily News at that time, Wilson said, “I am very humbled. A lot of great people have been honored in past years and I’m really humbled to be in their company.”

On a personal note, I first met Kevin Wilson as a freshman and part of the Missouri 41st AFJROTC at Neosho High School. As a fellow cadet, I respected him as an officer and as the corps commander. I cheered when he was awarded the Air Force Scholarship. He was a long-time friend of my late husband, also a corps commander and became my friend as well. In my time at the Neosho Daily News, I was his liaison for his weekly column, was privileged to interview him on many occasions, especially on stories that involved Crowder Industries, and often saw him.  I last talked to him when he called during a hospital stay to state that he would get his column to the paper as soon as possible. That column was the way he had of sharing his conservative position with the world. He had a way with words and he used them very well.

Wilson and his wife, Melody, recently marked their 40th anniversary. The couple has two sons, Sean, who is a teacher at Benton Elementary and Patrick, who works in management for Scholastic. Both sons are married, respectively to Hope and Crystal. The Wilsons have six grandchildren.

He leaves behind a wife of 45 years, Melody, two sons, two daughters-in-law, and six grandchildren along with a legacy that will remain standing for years to come.

Neosho lost a friend, a champion, and a man who stood tall.