Bert Wilkins, Jr.
Bert Wilkins, Jr. passed away peacefully at his home in Hattiesburg, Mississippi on July 13, 2021 surrounded by the enduring love of his family.
Bert was born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi on October 8, 1934 to Bert and Augusta Ruble Wilkins. Growing up he excelled in the classroom and on the sports fields. He graduated from Hattiesburg High School in 1953 voted “Most Likely to Succeed” and played tackle for Coach C.D. Galey’s 1952 Hattiesburg High School Tigers Big 8 State Championship Football Team.
Bert developed his interest in engineering as a cooperative student with Hercules Powder Company in Hattiesburg while attending the Georgia Institute of Technology. He would follow his Bachelor of Science Degree in Chemical Engineering at Georgia Tech with a Master’s Degree in Nuclear Engineering, and a PhD in Chemical Engineering. While pursuing his graduate work Bert held responsible positions in research with Lockheed Aircraft, Georgia Institute of Technology Experiment Station and Columbia University.
On September 14, 1957, Bert married Anne Olson Gillespie, his high school sweetheart and love of his life. The couple welcomed sons, Bert Wilkins, III in Atlanta, Georgia in 1958 and Robert (Bob) Gillespie Wilkins in New York, New York in 1960.
Following graduate school Bert began his professional career in 1965 at Humble Oil & Refining Company in Baytown, Texas. Later he would pursue his love of teaching by accepting a position as Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Missouri, and the family moved to Columbia, Missouri in 1967. With a desire to be closer to the petroleum and chemical industries Bert settled the family in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 1968, accepting Professor positions at Louisiana State University and later at Tulane University. In 1982 Bert left the University system to start Computer Ventures, Incorporated, a pioneering industrial software development company.
Bert was able to accomplish much during his career and these achievements were respected and recognized by his peers. Bert experienced one of his greatest professional honors in 1969 by being invited to join NASA’s Apollo 11 Lunar Team, Preventive Medicine Division at The Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, Texas. He was proud to contribute to the historic effort that summer, to land the first man on the moon.
Bert was an avid outdoorsman and as a boy he learned to fish and hunt in the bayous and piney woods of south Mississippi. As an adult he learned to scuba dive, but sailing would become his favorite pastime. He loved to captain his J22 sailboat in competitive club races on Lake Pontchartrain. Sailing fulfilled his desire to be on the water, constantly adjusting the sails and rigging for maximum performance. Bert also had a passion for reading and developed an extensive library of fiction and non-fiction works. His collection included technical manuals and textbooks that he kept in pristine condition. Through his reading Bert became a reliable historian of the Second World War and many other historical events.
Bert and Anne loved to entertain in every place they lived and hosted family and friends at numerous get-togethers from elegant dinner parties to backyard crawfish boils. The annual Christmas Eve party they held in the home they built in Baton Rouge was legendary. And… Bert made one helluva margarita.
In 2019 after easing into retirement, Bert and Anne returned to live in Hattiesburg to be closer to Bob and his wife Karen, and their three boys. They joined Main Street United Methodist Church, where Bert had attended church as a boy with his family. Finally, Bert’s earthly journey would end where it began 86 years before with the completion of a full and well-lived life.
Bert is survived by his wife of 63 years, Anne Gillespie Wilkins, two sons, Bert Wilkins, III (Angie) of Houston, Texas, and Dr. Robert Gillespie Wilkins (Karen) of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, three grandsons, Jackson Gillespie Wilkins, Christopher Lewis Wilkins, and Robert Madison Wilkins; sister-in-law, Mary Braeunig (John) of Easley, South Carolina, nephews, Will Dellinger of Greenville, South Carolina and Dr. Matt Dellinger of Seattle, Washington; niece, Jane Rouse (Bob) of Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina; and Costas Bakopoulos of Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania a close family friend.
There will be a visitation at 1:30 pm on Thursday, August 5, 2021 at Main Street United
Methodist Church, 712 Main Street, Hattiesburg, Mississippi. A Memorial Service will follow at 2:30 pm at the church.
The family wishes to extend their sincere thanks to Karen Anderson and Netha Harris for their kind and loving care for Bert during the last days of his life.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a contribution in Bert’s memory to Main Street United Methodist Church, (P.O. Box 1009 Hattiesburg, Mississippi 39403), Wounded Warrior Project (woundedwarriorproject.org), or The Davis Phinney Foundation for Parkinson’s (davisphinneyfoundation.org).