Kathy Wilson Foundation
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Kathy Wilson
August 10, 1951 – September 1, 2005

Kathy Wilson, 54, passed away suddenly but peacefully in her sleep of a heart attack during the early morning hours of September 1st, 2005 in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.

A resident of Alexandria, Virginia for 28 years, Kathy Wilson was born in Quonset Point, Rhode Island to Marion and Rita Higdon.

Her father, affectionately known as “Red,” was a decorated Navy pilot and later flew planes for private airlines. Kathy attended Parkway Central High School in St. Louis, Missouri. She received her BS in Education with a specialty in Special Education, with a Life Certificate to teach from the University of Missouri at Columbiain May 1973. She was a member of the Delta Gamma Sorority and maintained strong ties to many of her sorority sisters.

She received her Master of Arts in Education in December 1976.

The University of Missouri is also where she met her husband, Paul Wilson on the first football weekend of her freshman year.

Early in Kathy’s professional life, and following her father’s lead in the aviation industry, she worked briefly as a flight attendant for TWA . . . and hated every second of it. .

Then, after only a short time working in hotel sales, she attained the title of “Top Sales Person” at a Kansas City, Missouri hotel. She promptly left the position when she was stunned to learn she was lower on the pay scale than two male employees whom she had been asked to train.

It was at this precise moment Kathy Wilson joined the emerging women’s movement.

In January of 1977, Paul and Kathy moved to Washington, DC where she worked for three years as a Social Science Research Analyst with the U.S. Department of Labor.

During the same period she became an active member of the National Women’s Political Caucus, the Northern Virginia Chapter. By 1979, in a stunning, long shot campaign for a Republican, she was elected First Vice Chairperson, and in due course, served two terms as the 77,000-member-organization’s elected Chairperson.

During her tenure she was named one of “America’s 100 Most Important Women” by the Ladies Home Journal, .

and in 1985 was honored by Washingtonian Magazine as being one of “Washington’s Most Influential”.

As Caucus President, she was influential in both the senate confirmation of the first woman Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

and selection of the first woman on a national ticket of a major party, vice presidential nominee Geraldine Ferraro. During this time, she tirelessly campaigned for the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment and the election of more women to office.

As one periodical put it at the time,

“She tells politicians what women are thinking and advises women what to think about politics.” Her outspokenness, beauty and humor attracted national attention.

Adam Clymer of the New York Times polling division called her to humorously report he had tested her national name ID which he reported as 12% . . . exceeding the margin of error.

It was not atypical to see Kathy with babes in arms in the presence of various dignitaries and government officials. Her daughter, Casey Rose Wilson had seen 45 states by the time she was 2,

and as the host of a presidential debate in Iowa, Kathy’s duties as mother superceded her duties as moderator: Astronaut and presidential candidate John Glenn, in an attempt to kiss the baby swaddled in Kathy’s arms, was markedly surprised to find a young Fletcher Todd Wilson breastfeeding contentedly.

In May 1989 Kathy was the host of “The Kathy Wilson Show,” a television pilot considered for national syndication by the Lifetime Channel, which examined relationships between men and women. True to her nature, she was determined that the show not be ponderous or issue oriented, but deal with the “battle of the sexes” in an entertaining, witty, humorous, and above all, stimulating way.

One day, while dropping Fletcher off at nationally recognized Resurrection Pre-School, and clad in pink bathrobe and slippers, she realized her true calling.

Kathy Wilson’s second career was in early childhood education, and she devoted herself to the growth and welfare of children with unwavering enthusiasm and devotion for the rest of her life. From 1991 to June 1993 she taught at the Resurrection Children’s Center and concurrently served as the Model Teacher for the Danny Chitwood Early Learning Institute, where she traveled to Alexandria’s home care providers teaching each the new “high-scope” developmental methods.

For 11 years, Kathy served as the director of the Abracadabra pre-school, a non-sectarian ministry of the Baptist Temple Church of Alexandria. Abracadabra under the leadership of “Ms. Kathy” became the demonstration pre-school in the Washington area for the High/Scope educational curriculum.

The school is founded on a belief in the uniqueness of every child, and in accordance with Kathy’s philosophy, operates under the assumption that what every child needs most is a lot of love.

Kathy was past president of the Early Childhood Education Directors Association of Alexandria (known affectionately as the “12 Angry Women”), where she focused her energy on sensory integration and the development of the whole child. She served on several committees for the Alexandria Early Childhood Commission, setting standards and priorities regarding all the city’s children by advocating worthy teachers’ salaries and campaigning for the best in early childhood education in general.

She was the current president of Children Together, and had become deeply interested in current research on autism disorders and was planning an international teleconference with the foremost expert in the world on autism.

Kathy had recently become involved with the Coalition for Alexandria's Youngest Children, an all-volunteer group dedicated to improving the physical and mental wellbeing of all of Alexandria's youngest citizens, and to promoting universal access to quality preschool experiences for all preschool aged children in the city of Alexandria.

Kathy Wilson was a voracious reader and without question one of the best read women in Alexandria. Since 1997 she co-founded a woman’s book club and never missed a book. She read all major classics, all top novels written in the 20th Century, hundreds of plays, the World Book Encyclopedia, poetry, thousands of children’s books and extensively in her professional field. She also watched thousands of movies and knew the names of nearly every actor in film and their life history. Kathy Wilson was blessed with an absolute photographic memory for it all: every child, every parent, every fact, every pre-school regulation, every conversation.

Unbeknownst to most, she was a former licensed soccer coach of the Blue Angels, a student of “the beautiful game” and season ticket holder of DC United tickets from game one.

Kathy was a devout Baptist who was frequently the Lay Leader of Baptist Temple Church. She also sang alto in the church choir.

On May 8th of 2005 she saw a dream come to fruition when a sensory integration “outdoor classroom” and playground was dedicated at Abracadabra.

Named by her friend Marcia Call as “Six Flags for 2-Year-Olds,” the $80,000 dollar “outdoor classroom” is the first of it’s kind in the world. It features bleached sand, river rocks, water tables, painting easels, saws and hammers, and even a miniature grand prix race track, all the result of Kathy’s design, unbelievable planning and passion. [SEE: Outdoor Classroom]

Her family and friends will remember Ms. Kathy for her sharp sense of humor, undeniable presence and her mother-bear commitment to the cause of children. She was above all a fiercely devoted mother to her two children and supported their every dream and endeavor. She and her husband Paul shared a loving and vibrant relationship for nearly thirty-one years.

Kathy Wilson is survived by her husband, Paul O. Wilson of Alexandria, Virginia, her daughter Casey Rose Wilson who resides in New York City and Los Angeles, her son Fletcher Todd Wilson who attends the University of Pennsylvania, her father Marion “Red” Higdon of Pensacola, Florida, her brother Bruce D. Higdon, her sister-in-law Sharon Higdon, her nephew Brian Higdon, her sister-in-law Ann Wilson Goodrich, her brother-in-law Ralph Goodrich, countless relatives and friends, and her beloved beagle Josie. She was preceded in death by her brother Alan Brian Higdon and her mother Rita Higdon, also of Pensacola, Florida.

Washington Post Story [PDF]
New York Times Obituary [PDF]
Washington Post Obituary [PDF]
Los Angeles Times Obituary [PDF]

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