The Rev. Leonard Martin Wildes (retired), 82, of Waycross, died Tuesday morning, April 21, 2015, at home following an extended illness.
He was a native of Waycross and a direct descendant of John Wildes, a survivor of the Wildes Massacre of 1838.
He was preceded in death by his great-grandparents, John Wildes and Sarah Jane Nunez Wildes, grandparents, James Leonard Wildes and Martha Malissa Dixon Wildes, step-grandmother, Maggie Tatum Wildes, Mose Barber and Amanda Jane Stanfield Barber, his parents, Spencer Martin Wildes and Essie Ruth Barber Wildes, two sisters, Dorothy Jane Roland (husband, James B. Roland) and Martha Ruth Taylor.
He is survived by his wife Ina “Pinky” Ruth Steiner Wildes (Satilla Care Center); sister, Florris Wildes Willis; beloved companion and devoted caregiver, Toni Brown, her daughter and his dear friend, Nadine Borrelli, all of Waycross.
He is also survived by his four children, David Martin Wildes (wife, Odalie), of Norman, Okla., Susan Inez Ray (husband, Randy), of Freeport, Fla., Cynthia Gail Wildes, of Becida, Minn., John Daniel Wildes, of San Antonio, Texas; and two step-children, Raeline Nobels (husband, Brian), of Flower Mound, Texas, and Allen Steiner, of Clayton, N.C.; five granddaughters; one step-grandson; three great-grandsons and six great-granddaughters; three nieces, Penny Justice (husband, Sherman), of Jacksonville, Fla., Harriet Emily Bowman (husband, Clint) and Nora Marie Willis, of Waycross; one nephew, William Spencer Willis, of McDonough; and numerous great-nieces, great-nephews and many other relatives throughout the area.
He joined the U.S. Air Force in 1949 at the age of 16, when he may have misinformed the Air Force of his date of birth, which was brought to light and corrected in 1955. He began his military career as a private rifleman in the 221st Infantry Division and retired from the Air Force in 1969 as an aircraft reciprocating engine mechanic with the rank of tech sergeant.
He was stationed at many bases around the world and USA including Guam, Okinawa, England, Illinois, Texas, Hawaii, New Hampshire and California. He served during both the Korean and Vietnam conflicts and was awarded many decorations, medals and commendations including the Korean Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal and the Good Conduct Medal. He also served in the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.
After his military retirement, he lived in Texas and Minnesota before returning to his native Waycross. He became a minister in the Methodist church and pastored at several churches, managed a food bank and ministered to shut-ins. He loved airplanes and was a licensed pilot for many years. He also worked as an election poll supervisor for Ware County.
He had a beautiful bass voice and loved music and singing. He had a deep compassion for the needs of others including a love for animals. At the time of his death, he had four cats, three of which were rescues, and a dog. He also had a great sense of humor and loved to share stories of his life, and there was no topic that he didn’t have a story about!
He was a devout Christian and a member of New Hope Fellowship in Waycross.
Services were held Sunday, April 26, 2015, at New Hope Fellowship, 522 Miles Still Road, Waycross.
In lieu of flowers or food his family has requested that donations be made to the Okefenokee Humane Society or New Hope Fellowship.