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May 2024

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10. Photo by Daniel Hutchison. Dr. John Newhall ‘Bud’ Wilson

OBITUARY: Dr. John Newhall ‘Bud’ Wilson

Bud Wilson, 97, of Lama, who has recently been living in the Albuquerque area, passed away peacefully in his sleep Easter morning, at home with family. An inspired humanitarian, Bud had an immense impact as he poured his heart and spirit into every endeavor – as a medical pioneer, conservationist, educator, mentor, friend, and beloved family member. He embraced the soul of humanity in everyone he met, in practice, as his spiritual path.


Born in Chicago, with his high school football coach, he first visited New Mexico at age 16 where he learned the art of making adobe bricks in San Cristobal. At 17, he joined the Marine Corp Reserves and completed pilot training, though he was not called to active duty before the war ended. Through the GI Bill, he pursued his education at Williams College and Northwestern Medical School, graduating in 1952.


His love of New Mexico led him to return during breaks from studies to work with the Forest Service. In 1947, he bought land in Lama, which would become his lifelong refuge and eventual home. During this time, Bud met his wife Barbara, while visiting musician Jennie Vincent in San Cristobal. They married in 1949. On summer breaks from medical school, Bud and Barb returned to San Cristobal, bringing the first group of teenagers from inner city Chicago to share the experiences Bud had enjoyed.


Dr. Wilson completed his internship and surgical residency in Denver and also Sweden. In 1965, Bud and Barb took their four children, ages 5–12 to India, where Bud taught medicine and was a surgeon in Vellore (Tamilnadu) and Odanchetrum, where he established the first heart surgery hospital in southern India with his friend and colleague, Jacob Cherian.


New Mexico remained a guiding star, and so the family moved to Albuquerque. Bud was a surgeon at UNM Hospital, BCMC, and then in private practice with a group focused on thoracic surgery for Presbyterian Hospital where they established the first heart program in New Mexico.


Working tirelessly and selflessly, he would retreat to his beloved Lama Mountain to irrigate and restore the land. As an ecologist, he helped stabilize overgrazed land prone to erosion, and sowed drought-resistant native seeds. To preserve the land for wildlife habitat, agriculture, and open space, he placed most of the land in conservation easements with the Nature Conservancy, American Farmland Trust, and Taos Land Trust.


Dedicated to service and recognizing the treasure of potential in youth, Bud and Barb established the Sangre de Cristo Youth Ranch in Lama, where 10- to 12-year-olds could have experiences with nature and working the land. He offered this for free to the children of the nurses he worked with, the youth of New Mexico, Chicago, and the world.


A Mexican camper from nearly 40 years ago wrote recently, “Your family made a big impact on my life, especially your father. I would not be who I am now without him and the opportunity I had to be part of that summer camp. I would love to thank you all again for the opportunity.”


Dr. Wilson is preceded in death by his daughter, Lenny, and wife Barbara. He is survived by his children and their spouses; Crick and Sarah, Nat and Peggy, Ben and Amy; grandchildren Rachel, Bryan, Yoma, Issa, Perri and Miles; great-grandchild Mason, nieces and nephews, and by his partner Sally McGrath and her extended family.


There will be a memorial/celebration, which will be announced in Questa Del Rio News. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to Sangre de Cristo Youth Ranch, Nature Conservancy, or Taos Land Trust.

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