Jesse Wilbert (Wil) Edgerton died on October 1 in Greensboro, NC
Wil was born to a Quaker farming family on November 21, 1918, in Nahunta, near Goldsboro, NC. He attended Guilford College and there met Marianna Dow, his future wife. After graduation in 1940, he taught high school before being drafted into Civilian Public Service. He worked as an attendant in a mental hospital, which inspired him to work to prevent mental illness. He earned a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Duke University in 1953.
Wil's career was directed toward the public's need for mental health services. He worked for Volusia County, Florida, then as Executive Director of the Alabama Association of Mental Health, then in regional offices of the National Institute of Mental Health in Charlottesville and Chicago.
Finally settling in Chapel Hill, from 1965 to 1989 Wil was a professor in the Department of Psychiatry in the School of Medicine at UNC. He was one of a group of Community Mental Health professors who, besides teaching future physicians, researched community psychiatry alternative services and rural mental health and held workshops for professionals. He was the director of a popular workshop held 15 summers in the NC mountains. He held many offices in professional and volunteer organizations, including president of the NC Mental Health Association, the NC Psychological Association, the Mental Health Section of the American Public Health Association, and the Community Psychology Division of the American Psychological Association. He won national awards for Distinguished Contributions to Practice in Community Psychology and for Distinguished Professional Contributions to Public Service. He was a volunteer lobbyist at the NC legislature on behalf of mental health issues, an activity which continued after retirement. He was inducted into the Order of the Golden Fleece in 1999.
Wil and Marianna were married in 1943. After their four children were grown, they traveled extensively, visiting 40 countries and six continents, often in exchange programs with the Friendship Force. They moved to Friends Homes West in 2000.
Wil made strong and lasting personal relationships. Having great affection for his alma mater, Wil served on the Board of Trustees of Guilford College for 30 years, and was honored with both the Alumni Excellence and the Distinguished Service Awards. He was a sports fan, especially UNC basketball, and kept informed on current events. He did crossword puzzles in ink, sometimes during boring meetings. He could write a limerick for any occasion.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Haskell and Roella Cox Edgerton of Wayne County, NC, sisters Ruth, Esther, and Elizabeth; and brothers Howard and Kenneth. He is survived by his wife of 69 years, Marianna Dow Edgerton of Greensboro; children David and Alison Hay Edgerton of Backus, MN; Karen and Dillon Robertson of Winston-Salem; Stephen and Dawn McKissick Edgerton of Chapel Hill; and Elizabeth and Alex Albright of Fountain, NC; six grandchildren; and several nieces and nephews.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Residents Assistance Fund, Friends Homes West, 6100 West Friendly Avenue, Greensboro; the J. Wilbert and Marianna Dow Edgerton Scholarship Fund, Guilford College, 5800 West Friendly Avenue, Greensboro; or a charity of the donor's choice.
Published in The News & Observer on October 7, 2012.