Kenneth Edgar Wilson, Jr, formerly of Philadelphia

Kenneth Edgar Wilson, Jr

Kenneth Edgar Wilson, Jr

Kenneth Edgar Wilson, Jr., a retired Navy rear admiral, died at age 90 on July 7, at his Kendal Crosslands retirement community in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. He was the son of Jane Hance Wilson, of Taney Place, Calvert County, Md, and Kenneth Edgar Wilson, of Baltimore, Md.

Ken was born in Philadelphia in 1926, was raised in nearby Narberth, and attended Lower Merion High School in Ardmore. In 1944, he entered the U. S. Naval Academy and graduated in 1947 with the Class of 1948. He also attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from which he received a master’s degree in naval construction and engineering in 1952. It was during his time at MIT that he met Shirley Smith of Rutland, Vt., and they were married in 1951. Ken and Shirley went on to have four children, and they moved several times throughout his career, providing many adventures for the family.

Ken’s naval career spanned 35 years and he had a particular passion for submarine and shipbuilding. He had various sea assignments on cruisers and submarines, including deployment in the Holy Loch, Scotland. Later in his naval career, he served ashore as commander of the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, and the vice commander of Naval Ships and Naval Sea Systems Commands at Navy headquarters in Washington, D.C. He retired from the Navy in 1978, at which time he was awarded the Navy Distinguished Service Medal. He later served in executive positions in Exxon Enterprises and International Companies and as an independent management consultant of the public utilities.

Ken and Shirley loved to travel. In their earlier years, planned trips with the children were often based around routes that would provide the most opportunities to stop and visit battlegrounds, naval bases, and anywhere he could pose the children for pictures with cannons. In 1969, Ken and Shirley bought an old home in the village of Belmont, Vt. It was quite a project, but anyone who knew Ken knew he was always up for projects and thrived when busy. He could often be found tinkering in his workshop or sprucing up the outside of the house. He also had a passion for woodworking, making each of his children cherry heirloom cradles for their babies. He and Shirley also spent much of the leisure time in earlier years antiquing to furnish their homes, and items they collected throughout their lives together now grace the homes of their children and grandchildren. Ken was an avid golfer and at home, he always took time to play croquet in the yard, and as the reigning champion, he was forced by his family to play with a special ball for him that was cut in half. The family spent many happy summers in Belmont and plans to continue that tradition with future generations of Wilsons to come.

Upon Ken’s retirement, he and Shirley moved to Crosslands where they remained very active in the community. They enjoyed trips to various places around the world, but most beloved to them was Scotland and their home in Vermont. Shirley died in 2012; they were married for 61 wonderful years.

Survivors include his four children, Barbara (Lloyd) Conley of Solomons, Md., Nancy Drake of Exton., Kenneth Wilson III (Mimi) of Zelienople, Pa., and Sarah (Daniel) McKay of Drexel Hill.; 11 grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren. In addition to his wife Shirley, he was predeceased by his older sister, Sue Wilson Tabor, of St. Augustine, Fla.

You are invited to Ken’s Funeral service at 11 a.m. Monday, July 18, at The Episcopal Church of the Advent, 401 N. Union St. Kennett Square, PA 19348. Burial with full military honors will be held at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis Md. Contributions in his memory may be made to the Episcopal Church of the Advent, 201 Crestline Drive, Kennett Square, PA 19348 or to the Crosslands Reserve Fund, PO Box 100, Kennett Square, PA 19348 or at with the “donate now” icon. To view his online tribute and to share a memory with his family, please visit

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