Leta Mae Dunwoody Wilson was born Sept. 5, 1926 in Shelbina, Missouri. She was the eighth of twelve children born to Alva Lester Dunwoody and Corna Francis Ross Dunwoody. She grew up on the farm surrounded by love and happiness. 

Leta’s education began at No. 6 school, a one room school, where she graduated at the top of her eighth grade class. She attended Madison High School which was quite a distance from the farm so she and her older siblings shared an apartment in Madison and went home to the farm on weekends. When she graduated from high school, World War II was raging and there was a shortage of teachers. She attended Kirksville Teachers College (now Truman University) and obtained an emergency teaching credential.  She returned to her home and became the teacher at No. 6 school where she was not only the teacher but the custodian, school secretary, and anything else that needed to be done.  

When the war ended Leta decided to move west to California to be with her sister, Fern, who was working as a telephone operator in Eureka. Soon after she arrived she found work as the secretary for the editor of the local newspaper, The Humboldt Times.  

Leta met Ben Wilson at a dance in 1945. Ben enjoyed teaching Leta about the North Coast which had been his lifelong home. There are lots of amusing stories about this Missouri girl learning to fish for salmon. They married on June 21, 1947. Together they raised four children: Jennifer, Carolyn, Jeff, and Chris.  When her children were all old enough to care for themselves after school she decided to go back to work.  She polished her skills and was hired as a traffic clerk in the Arcata Justice Court. Always well organized and detail-oriented, she enjoyed her co-workers and the interaction with members of the legal community who had business in the Arcata Justice court.  After more than 30 years, she retired as the Clerk of the Arcata Municipal Court.

In retirement, Leta travelled with Ben to many parts of the United States and Canada. She especially loved to visit her family in Missouri.  

Leta was a generous quilter who shared her quilts with family and friends and made a whole new circle of friends in the quilting community. She also was a longtime volunteer with the Northern California Community Blood Bank. 

Leta took great pride in her home and maintained her yard and garden like a park. Her roses were always the highlight of her garden and there was never a weed in her yard. She loved her pets. She and her Jack Russell terrier, Molly, were often seen walking in the area around Sequoia Park or Henderson Center.  She was a cancer survivor having been diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000. She underwent surgery and was able, within weeks, to resume her vigorous daily walks. Until a stroke limited her activities in October of 2019, Leta and Molly would walk at a brisk pace for two miles or more every day.  But nothing was more fun for her than being with her grandchildren and having her family nearby. She shared with them her strength, wisdom, humor, love and appreciation of all the gifts with which God blessed her.  She was a wonderful Mother but even better as a Grandma.

Leta was preceded in death by her husband Ben Wilson in 1992, parents, Alva and Corna Dunwoody, sisters Reva M. Neale, M. Alice Willingham, Permelia F. ”Melia” Neale, Fern  E. Kauder, brothers Ross B. Dunwoody, Grover C. Dunwoody, C. Ray Dunwoody, Rex J. Dunwoody, and L. Fred Dunwoody.

Leta is survived by her sisters Bonnie J. Dunwoody and Dollie F. Dunwoody of Moberly, Missouri and her children Jennifer Chapman, Carolyn Crnich (William), Jeffrey Wilson (Chieko), and Christopher Wilson (Linda), her beloved grandchildren, Abigail Crnich (Craig Whitten), Sarah Chapman Weltsch (Jonathan), Justin Zabel (Janna), Nickolas Wilson (Toni), Bryan Wilson (Celina), and Taylor Wilson (Jordan). She is also survived by ten great grandchildren and a huge number of nieces and nephews.

Leta’s family wishes to express special thanks to those who have cared for her in recent months, particularly Maureen Yost, Judy Taylor and Janet Arnold. Their loving care was such a comfort to Leta and her family.

As per her wishes, friends and family are invited to gather for graveside services when her cremains are set to rest with her husband’s on February 22, 2022 at 11 a.m. at Ocean View Cemetery in Eureka. 

For those wishing to make a memorial contribution to charity, we would suggest the Northern California Community Blood Bank, 2524 Harrison Ave., Eureka CA 95501 or the Susan G. Koman Foundation for Breast Cancer Research, 13770 Noel Rd., Suite 801889, Dallas TX 75380 or the charity of your choice. 


The obituary above was submitted on behalf of Leta Wilson’s loved ones. The Lost Coast Outpost runs obituaries of Humboldt County residents at no charge. See guidelines here.