Richard C. Wilson, 78

March 19, 1940 - Oct. 7, 2018
Richard C. Wilson, March 19, 1940 - Oct. 7, 2018

Richard Chauncey Wilson, an East Hampton School Board member who was a Sag Harbor science teacher for 30 years and went on to run the Village Toy Shop in East Hampton, was surrounded by family when he died on Oct. 7 after a long battle with cancer. 

Born in the Bronx on March 19, 1940, to the former Dorothy Fladderman and John Wilson, a New York City police officer, he was the youngest of three. The family lived in a railroad flat, and in the summers they rented a small cabin with no running water or electricity on the Smithtown Bay, where the days were filled with swimming, fishing, and bonfires for warmth and cooking. 

He attended Public School 39 before the family moved to Levittown. After graduating from high school, Mr. Wilson attended Arizona State University.

Traveling back and forth from New York to Arizona on Route 66 in a newly purchased red 1960 Corvette that he was able to buy from money made delivering heavy equipment for G.E., his college summers were focused on making money for the next year. While lifeguarding at Sunken Meadow State Park in Kings Park, he met a lifelong friend, Bob Streck, who introduced him to East Hampton and whose family regularly invited him to their house on Gerard Drive in Springs. 

After graduating from Arizona State University, Mr. Wilson worked as a manager of Hertz Rental Cars in the Bronx, but eventually, “after many more trips out to East Hampton, Rich decided it was time to move to the area and trusted that everything would work out from there,” his family wrote. 

Mr. Wilson began lifeguarding at Georgica and Main Beaches along with Mr. Streck, George Kennedy, Ed McDonald, Paul Amaden, Fred Yardley, and John Tarbet, and took a job as a science teacher in the Sag Harbor School District, where he met his future wife, Patricia Plansker, who was also a teacher.

The couple were married in June 1970 and had three children, Jennifer, Richard Chauncey Jr., and George. “Their lives centered around the beach and their close friends,” his family said. Mr. Wilson continued to lifeguard, and to supplement his income he bartended at Sam’s and Lyons. 

As a science teacher, Mr. Wilson “found success with his students using a hands-on approach to teaching. Because of this success and the enthusiasm of his students, Rich was asked to write the entire science curriculum for the Sag Harbor School District,” his family wrote.

A love for science led the couple to open the Village Toy Shop on Main Street, where among the science-based inventory you could find Lionel trains, board games, unusual toys and gifts, and a surf shop in the back of the store. The store was open from 1986 to 2003.

After retirement, the Wilsons loved to travel with friends and family. They traveled to California to see their son Rick, to Australia to visit their son George and his wife, Danielle, and to many countries with friends and on their own. “They loved to have fun together. Having a drink together at a bar anywhere in the world brought them such joy. They would meet and befriend the regulars no matter where they went,” Mr. Wilson’s family said.

“He loved his friends, and he loved his family passionately, and Rich loved helping people.”

Mr. Wilson “was extremely proud of his three kids,” his family wrote, and he “was a very proud Poppy” to his six grandchildren, Julia and Lucy Short, Camron and Layla Wilson, and Lyla and Liam Wilson. “He also loved with his whole heart and soul Jen’s husband, 

Keith, Rick’s girlfriend, Jenny, and George’s wife, Danielle. He felt that they too were his kids.”

Even while fighting cancer, Mr. Wilson ran for and was voted onto the East Hampton School Board. His second term was to expire in June 2019.

On the school board, Mr. Wilson was instrumental in starting the Invention Convention, implemented use of the first Full Option Science System science kits, and worked hard to obtain foundation grants. During his tenure, East Hampton schools introduced new programs in coding and robotics and a full-day prekindergarten program, all of which he was proud of. “His legacy has affected many generations of students to come,” his family wrote.

The Wilsons were members of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, where Mr. Wilson worked with the Rev. Gerardo Roma-Garcia “handing out sandwiches to the day workers at the East Hampton train station,” his family said. He loved to host the church’s coffee hour and to listen to the Very Rev. Denis Brunelle’s Sunday sermons. 

A service was held on Friday at St. Luke’s. 

His family has suggested donations to the Hispanic Ministry of the East End, St. Thomas Discretionary Fund, 315 Pine Street, Mattituck 11952.