Grand County community remembers teacher, photographer who died at A-Basin

Amy Golden
SkyHi News
Photos of Mike Wilson sit in front of some of his wildlife photography during a reception following a celebration of life for the photographer and educator at West Grand High School. The school renamed its observatory in honor of Wilson on Saturday, May 15.
Photo by Amy Golden / Sky-Hi News

GRANBY — West Grand High School Principal Elizabeth Bauer will always remember how Mike Wilson insisted on taking a picture of everyone at a sporting event, including the coaches.

As a coach, she didn’t always like getting her picture taken. A week before Wilson died, he approached a stressed Bauer before a basketball game to once again take her photo. She waved him away, but he insisted on the shot.

“That is something that I will always cherish about him, and I am so grateful for those times that he insisted,” Bauer said. “If he were here today, he would be right in front taking those pictures of all of us.”

A dedicated educator and photographer, Wilson was remembered by the West Grand community during a celebration of life Saturday, May 15. Former peers, students and family all spoke fondly of the 69-year-old who died of a heart attack Feb. 6 at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area.

Jenn Stuart, an English teacher, recalled her last conversation with Wilson a few days before. As it often did during the winter season, their conversation had turned to skiing.

“We were both excited for the snow prediction for the weekend as it appeared we would be making some powder turns,” Stuart said. “Mike, your last day was a powder day.”

Along with his love of skiing, Wilson was remembered for his spectacular photography, including his work for the Grand Gazette, and his passion for science and space. More than one story highlighted his penchant for explosions.

“He once told me, ‘I wouldn’t be doing my job as the chemistry teacher if I didn’t set off the fire alarm at least once every year,'” recalled Emmylou Harmon, a science teacher whom Wilson mentored.

While Wilson taught a plurality of subjects, one former student remembered that Wilson’s best lessons had nothing to do with a specific topic.

“What Mr. Wilson taught wasn’t so much science as it was lessons in how to be a curious person — the mark of a great teacher,” Michael Gallagher said.

Astronomy was another passion of Wilson’s. Harmon recalled the numerous times he would email her or stop by her office to remind her “something amazing would be happening in the sky.”

Harmon read a letter from Philip Bonds, former principal of West Grand High School, crediting Wilson for joining the project to build an observatory during a pivotal time. On Saturday, West Grand renamed the high school’s observatory in Wilson’s honor.

“Not a lot of schools have their own observatory, and Mike knew our students deserved this opportunity to dream with the stars,” Harmon said. “It is with great pleasure that the West Grand School District dedicates and renames this observatory the Robert Michael Wilson Observatory in honor of the man who made it a reality.”

Wilson’s three younger siblings attended the celebration of life and expressed their gratitude for these stories about their brother. A humble man, Wilson did not go into details about his accomplishments, and his family was delighted to hear about his many contributions.

“We had no idea as a family what a wonderful gift this community has been to him,” his oldest sister said. “Everywhere we go, we hear another story that just fills our hearts with joy of really what a special community this was and how special he was to you.”

Along with his nearly 40 years as a teacher, Wilson’s many incredible photos highlighting the lives of West Grand students will forever be a testament to his kindness.

“In one word, Mike was a man who gave,” Stuart said. “… If a picture speaks a thousand words, Mr. Wilson authored volumes.”

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