Leora Goff Wilson

Honored by:Darlene Wilson Scar
Brick location:B:8  map

Gold Star Mother (1890-1987)

Leora Goff Wilson greeted friends, neighbors, and relatives in the basement of the Christian Church in Guthrie Center. Scores of friends were there to celebrate Leora's ninetieth birthday. Photographs of Leora's children were displayed--the seven who grew up during the Depression. Her five sons were pictured in their Navy and Air Corps uniforms reminding the well-wishers of the great sacrifice the Wilson family made during World War II. Mrs. Wilson became a Gold Star Mother when her three youngest sons lost their lives during the war. She was remarkable because of the gracious way she survived her hardships and heartaches.

Already a fourth generation Iowan, Leora was born in Guthrie County in 1890. She lived in Iowa 92 of her 97 years. Leora Goff was the oldest of ten children in a farm family that moved fourteen times while she was growing up. Leora attended rural schools through eighth grade, worked hard at home and in the field, and while Halley's Comet made its 1910 visit she took lessons at Mrs. Conrardy's Sewing School in Exira. Leora sewed for other families and also cared for her aging grandparents.

 Leora Goff married Clabe Wilson in 1914. Clabe farmed with Leora's father and they lost most of their land in the 1920 slump in farm prices.

The Wilsons had three children by then. Twins were next then two more sons. After Stuart's night watchman was killed in a bank robbery, Clabe took the job until he found farmwork. Times got much worse when the Depression settled in rural Iowa and the Wilsons moved into the town of Dexter. Clabe had no job. Another set of twins was born in 1930. A few weeks later all nine Wilson children came down with whooping cough; the infant twins died of complications. The family was grateful for hand-me-downs, a part-time WPA job, a garden, and grateful that the two oldest sons could join the Navy after they graduated from high school. The Wilsons found farmwork in 1939 near Minburn where they were living when Pearl Harbor was attacked. One son was still in the Navy serving on the carrier Yorktown which was lost at the Battle of Midway. He survived and later served on the Hancock another carrier that was in nearly every major naval battle during the last year of the war in the Pacific. The oldest son rejoined the Navy and the three youngest became pilots. Mrs. Wilson wrote in her memoirs "We had to have faith trust in God and be as hopeful as possible and take our boys to trains and go to their destinations and part with a courageous smile." All three young pilots were lost during the war. One was lost on a mission in New Guinea and was never found. One was killed in combat in Austria and is buried in France. The youngest was killed during a training mission when his fighter plane exploded--the day the bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. "What a time of agony and grief to bear...It just seemed like we couldn't bear any more" wrote Leora. The next year her husband died of a stroke at age 58. Leora Wilson cared for her aging mother in Guthrie Center from 1948 to 1962.

In 1962 Leora was nominated by her church as Mother of the Year for the state of Iowa. Mrs. Wilson was active in her church, the Guthrie County Historical Society, the American Legion Auxiliary Rebekah Lodge, and her neighborhood until her death at age 97. She patched at the hospital using a treadle sewing machine and was a member of the Federated Garden Club for several years.

People who knew Leora Goff Wilson still comment on what a remarkable woman she was. In spite of the hardships and heartache she encountered during her life she was a gracious and effective member of her community and an encouragement to her children and grandchildren as well as so many others whose lives she touched. Four of Mrs. Wilson's nine grandchildren graduated from Iowa State University and one great granddaughter is currently studying at ISU.

Written by granddaughter Joy Neal Kidney 7/4/94