Friends and family remember PC Wilson

“I said ‘I’m gonna send you a picture of the ocean, so you can be with me for your birthday,’” said Judy Newsome who is currently in Puerto Rico. That was what she told her sister, PC Wilson, the last time they talked. Wilson died following an acute illness on Jan. 15 at 70 years old, missing her 71st birthday on Jan. 26.

“So I sent her a picture anyway, even though she’s not here,” said Newsome. Although Wilson had been in and out of the hospital since September 2022 for ongoing issues related to a chronic illness, her death was unexpected. 

A memorial service is being held at Francis Funeral Home (5201 Whitby Ave.) on Wednesday, Jan. 31. Those who want to honor Wilson’s life are invited to attend.

“We’re all really close, but you always have a special connection with some,” Newsome said about her eight siblings and one informally adopted sister. “PC is one of my favorite sisters out of six.”

The family was in the middle of planning a vacation just before Wilson’s sudden passing. Newsome hoped their next trip would be near the ocean because of Wilson’s fondness for nature. Newsome often drove her sister through wooded areas to see changing leaves in autumn and to the shore during warmer months. She now plans to spread Wilson’s ashes over the water. 

“We were just laughing recently,” Newsome said, explaining what Wilson, who is ten years older, told her about how their caretaking roles shifted: “I used to call you the baby, and look at you now. You’re making sure I’m okay.”

Newsome remembers one night when Wilson babysat her as a teen, spending the night making calls on behalf of Women Organized Against Rape (WOAR) — a cause Wilson was deeply involved in throughout her life. She described Wilson as an “active advocate for things she was passionate about — for gay rights, for women’s rights.”

“So I learned how to become involved with the causes I’m passionate about,” she said about Wilson’s influence. Wilson later had a career as a banker and helped to form affinity groups for women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ people in her workplaces.

“She was accepting of everybody,” she said. “I was hearing things from friends [about LGBTQ+ people] that may have been negative, but seeing my sister being involved in the community and going to events shaped my perception — and it wasn’t necessarily what the world had to say.”

“We loved her for her — and there was no judgment,” added another younger sister, Phyllis. “So it did not matter who she cared for. Whoever she cared for, we cared for.”

“She lived as much in her truth as she could,” Newsome added. “That’s what people need to know about her. She was authentic.” 

“She taught me about being who you are and living in that truth and celebrating that truth,” she said. “So we did that whenever we could.”

In 2017, Suz Atlas and Mary Groce met Wilson in the lobby at John C. Anderson apartments — the LGBTQ-affirming senior center in Philadelphia. Wilson and a group of women applauded as the couple — who has been together 30 years — carried their belongings as they moved in.

“We got really close,” said Atlas. During the pandemic, residents of the building — who are all over the age of 60 — feared the impact of COVID, which had been reportedly wiping out entire nursing homes. Wilson kept the couple and other friends connected with Facetime calls and socially-distanced chats.

“She drove this little scooter down here and knocked on the door,” explained Grove. “She would stay in the hall, and we’d pull chairs up by the door — and we’d just talk. It was wonderful. She brought that social life to us when everyone was so isolated.”

“She was always a buoyant personality,” added Atlas, who remembers Wilson dancing in the building’s community room. “Always enjoyed a joke and laughter. She was a bright light.”

“She wasn’t up to going up and down the streets for Pride,” Atlas added about the year she gathered with Wilson to watch the parade. “But we set up in front of our building and cheered everybody on because Pride happens right in our neighborhood.”
“A lot of us are all still activists,” she said. “PC had signs on her door for peace and goodwill.” 

Wilson displayed a rainbow for LGBTQ+ rights, feminist slogans and anti-violence statements. “She just cared a lot about human rights,” Groce added.

Wilson also met Sharon Katz, and her partner, Marilyn Cohen, when the couple lived in the apartments before moving to the west coast. 

“PC had a really strong sense of justice for all people and she had an affinity towards our project the Peace Train,” said Katz, a South African musician best known for her work with a multiracial, multicultural band that traveled together across their country post-Apartheid. “She loved that we had worked with Nelson Mandela to bring people together in South Africa.”

“PC was just enamored by the idea,” said Atlas, who explained that it was one of the ways Wilson stayed connected to justice movements as she aged — by supporting the band’s music and selling their merchandise at events.

“PC was a special person,” Katz underlined. “Always willing to help and always with a smile on her face no matter what challenges she was going through.”

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