Ben Wiles Jr., a resident of Cedarvale for more than 70 years, died on Thursday, September 26, 2019 at University Hospital SUNY Health Science Center, Syracuse, New York. Mr. Wiles was born in Syracuse and was the son of Ben and Barbara Stickley Wiles. Mr. Wiles’ death was the result of a stroke and related complications.
As a child, Mr. Wiles lived at 438 Columbus Avenue in Syracuse, New Yorkin a residence now identified as the Gustav Stickley House. Mr. Wiles was Gustav Stickley’s grandson and could recall many activities that he shared with his grandfather in the Columbus Avenue house and in the family camp on Skaneateles Lake.
Mr. Wiles attended the nearby Sumner School in his elementary school years. After skipping some grades, he finished at the Sumner School two years sooner than normal. He then attended and graduated at age 16 from the Nottingham High School. After graduation from high school, he attended Syracuse University where he majored in Economics and Political Science and from which he graduated in 1937.While in college, he was a member of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity. Mr. Wiles was also the manager of the university’s intercollegiate basketball team.
In these years, Mr. Wiles spent many hours in the enjoyment of summer activities in Skaneateles. In particular, he was a participant the weekly sailboat races on the lake. In this, he and the other racers sailed a class that had been recently designed and built at the Skaneateles Boat Works. The class was formally known as the Interlake class. It was informally known, then and now, as the “Mower” class
Upon completing his studies at Syracuse University, Mr. Wiles attended the Harvard Law School in Boston. This was the first time when he had lived away from his parents’ house at 438 Columbus Avenue. This abrupt shift away from a continued residence in Syracuse was mitigated somewhat by a practice he adopted of sending his clothes from Boston to Syracusefor washing and having the clean clothes promptly shipped back to him in Boston.
After completing his legal studies, and recognizing the perilous state of affairs in Europe at this time, Mr. Wiles decided to join the armed forces. In August 1941, he and a friend traveled to the government offices on Whitehall Street in New York City and he enlisted in the Navy. After several months of training, he was detailed to the U.S.S. Pollux. The Pollux was assigned to the Pacific theater where it made several voyages to deliver supplies and equipment to Australia and other allied outposts.
After several months service in the Pacific, the Pollux was directed to return to San Francisco, its home port. During this trans-Pacific voyage, the Pollux navigator died and Mr. Wiles was required to add the navigator’s duties to his own. Reflecting on this episode, Mr. Wiles has said it was particularly gratifying when the Farallon Islands, which are approximately 32 miles west of the Golden Gate Bridge, showed up in their expected location and at about the time expected.
While completing his naval training, Mr. Wiles met and married Harriet Elizabeth Brace. The couple was given a nineteenth century farmhouse on Cedarvale Road in the Town of Onondaga as a wedding present.Together they renovated the house and barns on the 27 acre property and raised, at various times, sheep, chickens and a cow. When these efforts were less than successful, much of the tillable land was shifted to oats, hay and, later, raspberries. Land unsuitable for crops was used as pasture for horses.
In his teenage years, Mr. Wiles’ family owned and operated the Tecumseh Golf Club in Syracuse. Moreover, even as he was engaged in his law studies, he was supplying management advice by mail from Boston to improve Tecumseh’s profitability. This experience proved invaluable when, in 1953 and the years following, Mr. Wiles bought the land for and successfully developed the North Syracuse Golf Club.
In 1964, the North Syracuse property and business were sold. The proceeds from this sale were used to purchase 264 acres of land a short distance from his Cedarvale home along the Pleasant Valley Road. Following this purchase, Mr. Wiles devoted great efforts toward the protection of the Pleasant Valley property from development. In particular, he took satisfaction in naming a tree’s species and estimating a tree’s age. In addition, he was not shy about sharing his analyses with others who were treading the woodland trails with him. In the winter, when his house was heated by two wood-burning stoves, he took great pleasure in the sounds and smells of the fire.
In this period, Mr. Wiles was the attorney for the Town of Onondaga Planning Board, and he also served as a trustee for the Marcellus Public Library.
After completion of his military service in February 1946, Mr. Wiles chose to return to Syracuse with his wife and family and join in a law partnership with his father. During this period, he was also a founding member of the Samuel J. Tilden social club. The “ Tilden Club” was organized through lunch time meetings at a Round Table at the University Club. The sole qualification for membership in the Club was for the applicant to have been unfairly defeated in an election. Mr. Wiles quickly satisfied the Tilden Club’s membership requirement through unsuccessful runs for the Mayor of Syracuse, for a seat in the New York State Senate, and for the Onondaga County District Attorney.
At the time of his death, Mr. Wiles was 102 years old. In recent months, he reported to his visitors that he was “a happy man”.
Mr. Wiles is predeceased by his wife, Betty Brace Wiles, by his three brothers, John, Richard and Peter, and by his two sisters, Edith and Barbara. He also is predeceased by one of his daughters, Amanda Brown.
Mr. Wiles is survived by his four other children and by their spouses: Christopher (Renee) Wiles of Syracuse, Marion (Allan) Krauter of Skaneateles, Parker Brown of Syracuse, Ben (Sharon) Wiles of Schenectady, and Karl (Mary) Wiles of Syracuse.
He is also survived by 12 grandchildren and by the spouses of grandchildren as follows: Allegra (Andrew Wechter) Wiles of Pittsburgh, Emilia Wiles of Pittsburgh, Annette (Robert) Pickup of Skaneateles, David (Alexa) Krauter of Marblehead, Eric (Megan) Krauter of Skaneateles, Sabra (Chyld King) Brown of Boston, Alastair (Elizabeth Johnson) Brown of Brookline, Benjamin (Veronica Herrera) Wiles of Los Angeles, Laura (Jake Swearingen) Wiles of Bayonne, Theodore (Elizabeth Gardner)Wiles of New York City, Owen (Nikki Rosard) Wiles of New York City, Isabelle Wiles (Sam Kallman) of Syracuse. He is also survived by 17 great-grand children.
There will be a memorial service on November 2, 2019 at 2 p.m. in the University United Methodist Church at 324 University Avenue in Syracuse, New York.
Contributions may be made to the Gustav Stickley Home Foundation, 226 Teall Avenue – #6017, Syracuse, New York 13217, or to the charity of the donor’s choice.
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