Myron “Mike” Wilson and his late wife, Esther, occupy a special place in the Nature Center’s 50-year history. We cannot help but admire these two, with their friendliness, enthusiasm and inquisitiveness. ICNC events are more fun when the Wilsons have been present. They joined ICNC as lifetime members in 2016 (Esther) and 2019 (Mike), and also purchased lifetime memberships for several other family members in 2019. They provided regular general support to ICNC for decades before more recently tending to “sharing” financially toward projects. (Mike prefers “sharing” to “donating” or other similar words.) We recently visited with him in his home.
How did Esther and Mike first connect with the Nature Center? “Esther and I did a lot of walking, and we lived over on Trailridge (Road SE) near the (Sac & Fox) trailhead. So one of the things we walked on was the Sac & Fox Trail. A couple times we got down as far as the Nature Center.”
Mike recalls that he and Esther were among the first to “share” in the Amazing Space capital campaign. The Wilsons gave not just in a major way, but before the capital campaign had even launched. When they were asked how they would like to word their named room, they decided on the “Esther and Myron Wilson Exhibit Hall.” Esther had commented to Mike how so often the man’s name is listed first with naming rights. Mike made sure that didn’t happen. He thought it was important to list her first, as their funding decisions were mutual, and she contributed a lot to her community.
Regarding his thoughts on the Nature Center and what it has accomplished in its 50 years, Mike shared, “I’ve really been so proud of what (ICNC Executive Director) John (Myers) and his team have done. It’s just amazing. Just keep on going! It keeps on going in the right way.” When asked what he’s most proud of, he said, “expanding …into new fields as they came along, like the preschool (Creekside Forest School). The Nature Center “is willing to look at new ideas and expand into those new ideas, so it’s always dynamic and always improving. And probably the biggest thing I really appreciate is … that when they do it, they do it so well.”
“One of the characteristics that I notice so much is your volunteers. You seem to get plenty of volunteers … people who are really anxious to do that. For all the functions. Of course, that Maple Syrup (Festival) in the spring is a great one. But anytime you’re looking for volunteers, people are anxious to go do that. And I think that’s a measure of a good organization, when people are that excited to help.”
Mike likes the “whole idea” of the Nature Center. “As time has gone on, they’ve done such a great job, getting the kids and getting people in the (outdoors). I think those kids programs are really great.”
“You know, one of the real unique things about the Nature Center: We have a family reunion – Esther’s family. She grew up on a little farm south of Melbourne, near Marshalltown. The last two years we’ve had (a family reunion) at the Nature Center. We’re gonna be there again this year (2024). So the Nature Center fulfilled a need as far as I was concerned. I didn’t want that reunion to go away. And the Nature Center — they just did an excellent job. It’s a great facility and does all the right things. And people can go and walk the trails, and there are a lot of things they can take advantage of. It’s kind of a fringe benefit, but really, as far as I’m concerned, a great benefit to me.”
At Amazing Space, “Esther really enjoyed the bird room. She used to go over there just to watch the birds. I don’t think there’s any other organization where they’ve had something that Esther could go to and sit and enjoy (like the bird room). So when she passed away I wanted to do something about the bird room, (but) it was pretty full. Everything was (already) taken care of. The bird room is probably unique and really important that way.”
Mike has shared generously to fund enhancements to ICNC’s birding amenities in Esther’s name. A new birdfeeder system, just finished in early December 2023, includes twelve birdfeeders suspended on separate pulleys, making it easy for them to be rearranged and maintained. Another element Mike’s gift will fund is the addition of a bird blind near the new blue bridge site, east of the Amazing Space building. The blind is scheduled to be completed in 2024.
What gives Mike hope about the future of our natural world? “Well, the Nature Center’s kind of taken the lead in generating its own electricity and not having scrap to throw away and using the water (in a smart way) and (other things). And I think just continue that on. Nobody else that I know of is doing anything quite like that. Even when you built (Amazing Space), the materials and where they came from was all towards improving nature and keeping nature going. So I would just, of course, hope that they keep on going, and so far they have been.”
Mike has “an awful lot of fun” sharing with nonprofits in the community. “Every organization is different. They’re staffed with awful good people. Good people, good jobs, but they need finances to get them going. So I guess it’s really what we’ve tried to do.” We give thanks for Esther and Mike and all that they have shared of themselves to transform their community, including the Nature Center, into something great.