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Darrel Ray Wilder

• Nov 16, 2019 at 10:28 AM

SUN LAKES, AZ - Darrel Ray Wilder, Ph.D., age 72, of Sun Lakes, AZ, and formerly of Johnson City, TN, passed away peacefully at home on Sunday, November 10, 2019, more than 2.5 years after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

He was born in 1947 in Freehold, NJ, to the late Lewis Wilder and Teresa Wilder. Along with his father and mother, he was preceded in death by his first wife, Lona.

He is survived by his wife, Gail; daughters Corina and Carolyn and step-daughter Amanda; brother Richard and his wife Judy; sisters Lucie and Marianne; niece Erica and nephew Benjamin; and several grandchildren. 

Dr. Wilder was born and raised in Monmouth County, NJ and attended grammar school and high school in Freehold, NJ. He served in the US Air Force from 1966 to 1970 with duty stations in California, Viet Nam, Thailand, and Oklahoma. While attending Rutgers University on the GI Bill, he was employed as an Agronomy Technician in the university’s Soils and Crops Department, where he assisted in carrying out field trials on corn and soybean cultivars and did soybean breeding. He graduated magna cum laude from Rutgers in 1976 with a BA degree in chemistry. He was awarded a research fellowship to study chemistry at Duke University and obtained a Ph.D. degree in Analytical Chemistry in 1980, with dissertation research on the physical chemical properties of chemically modified sorbents. Dr. Wilder worked at Eastman Chemical Company in Kingsport, TN for his entire career from 1980 until 2006 and held a variety of positions of increasing responsibility in manufacturing support, research and technical management in five Eastman divisions. He served as director of two research divisions during the final ten years of his career. He was a long-time member of the American Chemical Society and  the American Society of Testing and Measures, a member of the University of Tennessee Board of Visitors - Chemistry Department, a member of the Industrial Research Institute Research Services Directors Network, and was on the editorial board for “Critical Reviews in Analytical Chemistry”.

Community service work included volunteering for Meals-on-Wheels in Kingsport for many years, participating in volunteer projects for several Kingsport United Way agencies, serving on the board of directors of Madison House Assisted Living facility, performing chemistry demonstrations for elementary school students at local schools, and serving as chairman of the Duke University Alumni Admissions Advisory Committee for the Tri-Cities region.

From an early age he had a great interest in aviation, and was a private pilot, an airplane modeler and aviation history enthusiast. Other long-time pursuits and interests included fly-fishing, hiking, nature study, ornamental horticulture with a special interest in rhododendrons and azaleas, azalea and daylily breeding, cooking, and Duke basketball. He was also an avid reader with particular interests in history, biography, natural science, and ornithology. After retirement, he took a number of East Tennessee State University biology courses including ornithology, and as a result birding became a principal and consuming hobby during the last years of his life. Almost every day found him at local birding sites collecting data for citizen science bird surveys. In addition, he took frequent trips throughout the US and to several foreign countries on birding expeditions. 

In accordance with the wishes of Dr. Wilder, there will be no formal funeral service. Instead, there will be a family celebration of his life at a future date. In lieu of flowers or gifts, donations may be made to the American Cancer Society or to the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology.