Roberta E. Wilson Profile Photo

Roberta E. Wilson

January 19, 1931 — November 29, 2023

North Andover

Roberta E. Wilson

Roberta Evans Wilson was born in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, on January 19,1931, the youngest of seven children. She grew up on the family dairy farm, where many happy hours spent playing in the fields and fishpond sparked a lifelong fascination with the natural world. During World War II, her family moved to Long Beach, California, where she attended Jordan High School and fell in love with her debate team partner, James Q. Wilson. Roberta and Jim attended the University of Redlands together, and were married a few months after they graduated in 1952.

Roberta and Jim lived for 26 years in Belmont, Massachusetts, where they raised their family, and another 22 years in a house they built by the sea in Malibu, California. Roberta enthusiastically embraced both communities and pursued her many passions with good humor and relentless curiosity. She was an ardent native plant gardener, a violinist, an avid birdwatcher, and a competitive masters swimmer. She was a talented artist who loved to sketch and paint, and she sewed elaborate animal-themed quilts for each of her five grandchildren. A former teacher, Roberta volunteered her time and talents to many organizations, including the Museum of Fine Arts, where she developed and lead a popular bus tour of Boston architecture that ran for many years.

Travel was a lifelong source of joy for Roberta. Nothing made her happier than exploring the world, immersing herself in nature, and sharing the experience with family and friends. Roberta and Jim learned to scuba dive in the 1970s and spent thirty years exploring the oceans of the world. Frustrated by the limitations of fish identification guides, Roberta undertook her own research at Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and in 1985 wrote and illustrated Watching Fishes, the first book ever published for a general audience about life and behavior on coral reefs.

Roberta took bike trips around France, rode horseback through the Canadian Rockies, watched brown bears in the Kodiak Archipelago, went birding in Central America, toured the gardens of England, and took numerous safaris in South Africa, Botswana, and Kenya. In recent years, though, nothing made her happier than her annual trips to Mexico with her children and grandchildren.

In 2009, Roberta and Jim moved to the Edgewood Retirement Community in North Andover, Massachusetts, where Roberta made many wonderful friends, was a valued member of boards and committees, and enjoyed swimming, yoga, and every possible fitness class she could take. She read voraciously and proudly maintained a 10,000+ daily step average until just a few weeks before her death. She will be missed beyond measure.

Roberta is survived by her son Matthew Wilson and his wife Rebecca Saikia-Wilson; daughter Annie Gilbert and her husband Robert Gilbert; grandson David Wilson and his fiancée Michelle Chow; granddaughter Elizabeth Gilbert, her husband Lamin Sima, and their son Isaac Sima; grandson Daniel Gilbert; granddaughter Amy Wilson; and grandson Henry Gilbert.

Roberta was predeceased by Jim, her beloved husband of nearly 60 years, in 2012.

A memorial service will be held at a later date.  In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Roberta’s name to: 

The Lawrence Boys & Girls Club:

The Trustees of Reservations:



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