Mike’s dairy farming career began in 1961 when he and Marilyn purchased a 900-acre farm and registered Holstein herd in Gray from Karl Merrill. Karl owned the “Springdale” herd and his family had farmed with registered cattle since 1881. He was particularly fond of a sun bleached brown Holstein cow named “Trina”, and advised Mike to “never sell that brown cow”. This cow, Mike would learn, traced 16 generations back to one of the first cows imported into the United States from Holland. Trina became a central figure in Mike’s future life as a registered breeder of Holstein cattle. In the decades since 1961, hundreds of superior cows in the “Wilsondale” herd can be traced directly back to “old Trina,” so much so that her descendants have become known as a distinct cow family within the Holstein breed. On the day Mike passed he attended a 4-H show where he proudly watched his eight year old great granddaughter parade a little brown Holstein calf that completes another 10 generations of this special cow family.
The success of Mike’s breeding program resulted in international exposure to his small New England herd. Mike exported nearly 1000 cattle embryos internationally, primarily to the United Kingdom, resulting in Wilsondale Trina descendants grazing the pastures of England and Scotland to this day. Pineland Farms in New Gloucester acquired the Wilsondale herd from Mike in 2001 and continues to breed some of the very best registered Holsteins. Mike continued with Pineland in an advisory role and was a dedicated employee for nearly 20 years. Mike lent his expertise to others as well. He was a managing partner in the Juniper Farm Cattle enterprise, an elite collection of Holstein dairy cows, during its reign in the 1980’s and early 1990’s. He purchased and developed some extraordinary cows for the farm during that time.
Mike received numerous accolades over his long and storied career in dairy farming. Mike and Marilyn were the first recipients of New England’s Young Breeder Award in 1975, and were awarded “Master Breeder” designation in 1999. In 2005 he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Libra Foundation in recognition for his outstanding contribution to dairy farming. Among other awards, Mike was added to the Eastern States Exposition (Springfield, MA) “Wall of Fame” in 2007 and was named Premier Breeder 20 times at the Maine State Holstein Show. Exhibiting cattle at local and regional shows was a passion for Mike. His favorite fair was Fryeburg, and it was always a family affair. He exhibited there for over five decades and his cattle received Grand Champion and Supreme Champion honors multiple times.
Mike was a longtime 4-H leader and ardent supporter of youth activities. He mentored his children, grandchildren and many other youth through successful 4-H and Junior Holstein careers. Mike was a colorful character who spoke his mind and was true to his convictions. He was quick with a smile, or a sly grin depending on the circumstances. Mike was a bit of a prankster and loved to instigate mischief. Whenever Mike leaned in to whisper a few words to a lending ear, shenanigans often ensued. Above all Mike was a family man. He sincerely believed in the goodness of life on the farm as a wonderful basis for family life and career. The pride and joy of his life were his wife, children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. His most treasured memories were time spent with his family, from simple family gatherings to fun family adventures. Mike’s favorite family adventure destination was “Wilsondale North”, his camp in Eustis. Four generations of family and countless family friends have enjoyed all seasons of adventure on the miles of trails in these western Maine woods and mountains. Outdoor recreation included snowmobiling, “rangering”, searching for wildlife and exploring back roads.
Mike’s memory is carried on by his beloved wife of 60 years, Marilyn, daughter, Sheryl A. Wilson of Gray, daughter, Julie Wilson Martin and husband Norman A. Martin III of Gorham, daughter, Vicky L. Wilson of Gray; five grandchildren, Michaela E. Skelton and husband William H. Skelton of Gray, Alyssa J. Herling and husband Abraham Q. Herling of Durham, Ashley M. Martin of Gorham, Evan Michael Kenney and wife Mikkayla L. Kenney of Gray, Aryn Martin Prestia and husband Brett M. Prestia of Savannah, Ga.; and eight great-grandchildren, Hadley Alyssa, Henry Abraham, Hayden Alyvia and Hunter Asher Herling, William Richard Skelton, Emery Jane and Isla Quinn Kenney, and Parker Otto Prestia.
He is also survived by a sister, Elinor Wilson Pearson and husband Charles Pearson of Wisconsin, a brother, Peter E. Wilson and wife Lise of Cumberland Center, and numerous nieces, nephews and their families.
He was predeceased by his parents, Mabel I. and Melville M. Wilson of West Cumberland, a brother, James H. Wilson of West Cumberland, and a sister, Doris Wilson of Cumberland Center.
A tribute to Michael Wilson will be held Saturday June 19, at the Cumberland Fairgrounds at 5 p.m., in the show arena. Casual attire is encouraged.
Memorial donations may be made in Michael’s memory to the Cumberland County All Star 4-H Dairy Club in care of Connie Wood
Parsonsfield, ME 04047