Photo above: Lois Wilde at her office at the old Sports Afield headquarters in Minneapolis in the early 1950s. Photo courtesy Cathy Larson.
Lois Elizabeth Wilde, longtime Associate Editor of Sports Afield and Trustee of the North Dakota Museum of Art, died on May 10, 2020, at Edgewood Parkwood Place in Grand Forks, North Dakota. She was born in 1922 in Grand Forks, attended local public schools, and graduated in 1944 from the University of North Dakota with a major in journalism and a minor in political science. One fortuitous outcome of the war years was that with the campus stripped of most male students, Lois was named the editor of the Dakota Student—a harbinger of things to come.
According to Dave Vorland in a 1983 UND Centennial interview with Lois, after graduation she and a coterie of female friends from the Dakota Student crew moved to Chicago. She took a job at Sears Roebuck before joining the editorial staff of Sports Afield, which was then based in Minneapolis. When the magazine moved its offices to New York in 1953, Lois discovered a new love: the city of New York. Later, however, she resigned her editorial job when she realized she was making considerably less than the man sitting next to her “who had a family” but was doing the same work.
Lois spent ten years in advertising, and in 1977 Sports Afield again came calling. Editor-in-Chief Tom Paugh was worried that the existing editorial focus had gone awry. He planned to reduce the magazine’s readership to 500,000 and focus on publishing important writers of exciting adventure stories, well-informed how-to-do-it pieces, and conservation as it impacted hunting and fishing. Such writers would need to be matched with highly skilled, experienced outdoor editors. Lois was among them. She accepted.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t hunting or fishing that occupied her private life, although over the years she learned much about the outdoor world. For example, an artist was commissioned to submit an illustration of a cougar to the magazine. When the painter turned it in to Lois, she quickly pointed out that cougars have rounded, rather than pointed, ears. The artist corrected the picture, explaining that he had used his house cat as his model.
In 1976 she went to Kenya on a trip with a group from Sports Afield. She followed up this African adventure on her own with excursions to Tanzania and South Africa. Decades later, one of her greatest pleasures was a drive to Kelly’s Slough Wildlife Refuge west of Grand Forks to see which birds had taken up residence or were migrating through.
What truly dominated Lois’s personal life was the arts. Once ensconced in her fifth-floor walk-up apartment in midtown Manhattan, she squirreled away her money to give herself a four-year sabbatical doing nothing but immersing herself in New York’s cultural life. Even after returning to work, four nights a week found her at the opera, the theater, the ballet, or on weekends at matinees or art exhibitions.
When Lois reached retirement age, she knew she couldn’t afford to stay in her beloved New York, so she moved back to Minneapolis. Then, in 2004, she returned to Grand Forks to be near her family. Between 2001 to 2017, she continued her immersion in the arts and travel, joining a small Minneapolis group on thirty-four trips to attend operas in the leading opera houses of the world, including La Scala in Milan and La Fenice in Venice; Teatro Colon, Buenos Aires; The Bolshoi in Moscow; New York’s Lincoln Center; The Sydney Opera House; and the Teatro di San Carlo in Naples.
Lois immersed herself in the Grand Forks cultural scene, supporting groups such as the community’s Symphony Orchestra, but especially the North Dakota Museum of Art, where she seldom missed an exhibition or a concert, be it the Classical Series or Summer Concerts in the Garden. She also resumed her lifelong engagement with language by becoming the Museum’s volunteer editor. Her final job was Eliot Glassheim’s last book, My Father’s Keeper. From 2010 until her death, she served as a Museum Trustee. Lois’s last requests were that she be buried in the Thompson, North Dakota, cemetery, that she be given a celebratory toast at the Museum, and that memorials should be given to the North Dakota Museum of Art.
Museum Director Laurel Reuter described her as “intelligent, thoughtful, a lovely companion and conversationalist with that sprightly giggle of hers. She was fun! Her personal code was don’t gossip, don’t complain about how you feel, stay cheerful for yourself and those around you, and stay engaged in the world.”
The Wilde family were early settlers in North Dakota’s Red River Valley. Lois’s great-grandfather, Franz Louis Wilde (1832 – 1907), came to America from Germany in 1852 when he was 20 years old. He married Doretta Kreitzer (1831 – 1887). They were followed by Lois’s grandparents, Charles A. Wilde (1863 – 1934) and Delilah A. Wardman (1878 – 1909).
Lois is survived by nieces and nephews Linda (Russ) Penn, Grand Forks; Vickie Lee, Grand Forks; Scott (Sheryl) Wilde, Thompson; and Jeffrey (Kristine) Wilde, Thompson. She was preceded in death by her father, Edwin Ralph Wilde Sr. (1898 – 1951); her mother, Esther Ovida Burr Wilde (1897 – 1954); and her brother, Edwin Wilde Jr. (1923 – 2010).