It is with great regret and sorrow that we
must notify you of the death of our Classmate, Rusty Wilkerson, on March 30,
2017, in Kingsport, TN, after a valiant battle to defeat brain cancer.
Rusty is survived by his devoted wife of 51 years, Gini Wilkerson; his three
daughters, Cathy (Lance) Carpenter, Marci (Brad) Schneier, and Ginny (Eric)
Schneier; his five grandchildren, Payton E Carpenter, Benjamin A Schneier,
Joseph W Schneier, Ryan J Schneier, and V. Hope Schneier; and his sister Alexine
Funeral arrangements are with Hamlett Dobson Funeral Home in Kingsport. At
Rusty’s request, Celebration of Life events are scheduled for 5-6 May in
Kingsport to be followed by Internment at West Point at a future date. Details
There will be a
memorial service for LTC Benjamin Wilkerson ’62 (He started with Class of 1961)
on Tuesday June 27th at 1330 hours at the West Point Cemetery.
Following the service the family is hosting a reception at the WPAOG Great Hall.
If you are able to
attend, please RSVP to Tom Middaugh at
For any classmates that do not have a DOD ID card or have
not received their Local Access Pass yet, the options are as follows:
Meet at Hogan’s Funeral Home
between 1245 and 1300 - 135 Main Street Highland Falls, NY 10928 and process
with the family through security to the cemetery. Security vehicle
passes will be passed out at the funeral home
Go to the AOG webpage and
apply online for a Local Access Pass -
https://www.westpointaog.org/gradpass. Follow instructions on the webpage
for picking up your pass.
Go to the visitor center and
go to the Graduate Line to apply for your grad pass.
For any questions
please call Kristan Burpo at the WPAOG Memorial Support at 835-446-8298.
Condolences to family members may be addressed as follows: Gini Wilkerson at
1209 White Street, Kingsport, TN 37664.
In lieu of flowers,
the family asks that donations in Rusty's memory be sent to the Sarah Cannon
Cancer Research Institute
Foundation, 111 Rockville Pike, Ste 420 Rockville, MD
Well done, Rusty. Be thou at peace.
Class Memorial Pages\E-2 Ben Wilkerson - USMA62.pdf
Benjamin Russell (Rusty) Wilkerson, of Kingsport, Tennessee,
left this world to be with our Lord on Thursday, March 30, 2017. Rusty was a
native of Franklin, Tennessee. He attended Battle Ground Academy, Washington and
Lee University and Vanderbilt University. Rusty was appointed to West Point in
1957 and is a 1962 graduate of the United States Military Academy. He also holds
a Masters of Public Service in Public Administration from Western Kentucky
University. Rusty served two tours in Vietnam in addition to other numerous
assignments. During his years of service, Rusty earned the Combat Infantryman's
Badge, Airborne Wings, and the Ranger Tab. His Military Awards include three
Meritorious Service Medals, three Bronze Stars, and the Army Commendation Medal.
After retiring from the Army as a Lieutenant Colonel, he served as the Deputy
Director of Engineering and Housing at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and as the
Public Works Director for the City of Kingsport, Tennessee. Rusty was a regular
columnist for the Kingsport Times News, a member of Kiwanis, a driver for
Waverly Presbyterian Church and served on the boards of Goodwill and Girls
Incorporated. He was an admissions Field Representative for 1st District, West
Point, and was a member of Mayfair United Methodist Church.
Rusty lived in Kingsport with his wife of 51 years, Gini.
They have three daughters, Cathy (Lance) Carpenter from Clarksville, Tennessee,
Marci (Brad) Schneier from Bradenton, Florida, and Ginny (Eric) Schneier from
Richmond, Kentucky; five grandchildren; and sister, Alexine Wilkerson of
Franklin, Tennessee. A Celebration of Life will be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
on May 6th at Mayfair United Methodist Prospect Center.
Taps Memorial Article:
BENJAMIN R. WILKERSON JR. 1962 Former 1961
Cullum No. 24414-1962 | March
2017 | Died in
Cremated. Inurned at West Point Cemetery, NY
Benjamin Russell “Rusty” Wilkerson Jr.
was born September 9, 1937 in picturesque Franklin, TN. From an early age he
yearned to attend military school, which he recalled as “fun…cool…football…and
girls (a harbinger of things to come).” By the time he graduated from Battle
Ground Academy, the die was cast which would lead to West Point. Washington
and Lee experiences (ROTC, football) were reinforcing, and then on a hot muggy
July 2, 1957 he found himself at Trophy Point with 741 other Class of 1961
candidates swearing to “protect and defend… .”
Five formative West Point years would establish who Rusty would become. He
learned self-worth, developed confidence and mastered how to act under
pressure, surviving until cow year when Solid Mechanics got the better of him.
Rather than quit, Rusty dug in, made a short Vanderbilt detour and fought his
way back into the Corps, joining the Class of ’62. This time he succeeded,
graduating third from last in his class. He took great pride, realizing that
he was still part of the “cream of the crop.” He also relished being integral
to two West Point classes.
Rusty was commissioned Infantry in June 1962, attended prep courses, including
Airborne and Ranger (the infamous frostbite Class of 1963), and then headed on
to Fort Carson, CO, before duty in MACV with the ARVN 22nd Infantry Division
in September 1964. On his return, while serving as CO of a training unit at
Fort Sam Houston, TX, he was selected to be a GO’s aide de camp. His overseas
duty included a second year in Vietnam with the 173rd Airborne Brigade at An
Khe, as well as duty in the Panama CZ at the U.S. Army Tropic Test Center. He
had also completed CGSC prior to departing the Army at Fort Campbell, KY in
1976 as a major. Among his awards are the BSM (w/ 2nd OLC), MSM, ACM, and CIB.
While in an airport just before Christmas 1965, prior to Fort Sam Houston,
Rusty met a beautiful stewardess. As the story goes, Gini immediately rerouted
herself, got on his plane and staked her claim. They married three months
later on March 10, 1966 and would produce three lovely daughters.
Rusty’s familiarity with the Fort Campbell bureaucracy
led to his first civilian job with the post engineer. This would evolve into
the position of deputy director, Engineering and Housing. His success had to
do with his knack for working with “blue collars,” as he put it. He regretted
leaving his loyal DEH workforce after 35-plus years of combined federal
service when he retired in 1992. They were family!
Full retirement was not yet viable. In prior months he had courted and finally
won the Kingsport, TN city father’s approval to become director of public
works. What ensued was like manna from heaven as things fell smoothly into
place—negotiating a salary, selling his Clarksville, TN home, and
finding/buying a new home in Kingsport. They did not await the Welcome Wagon,
but developed and successfully executed an integration plan to blend into the
fabric of Kingsport. It soon became “HOME,” best of their lives. Rusty’s
decision to retire a second time came in 1999 when he and Gini decided it was
time to travel while they still could. However, he was cajoled back to fill in
as the interim facilities manager of the city schools for another nine months.
Throughout, he wrote a bi-weekly newspaper column and, to avoid the rocking
chair, was a board member of Girls Inc. and Goodwill, drove for Meals on
Wheels, and counseled kids interested in West Point. Rusty just was never able
to refuse a call to service. He loved his fellow man, and they him (several
golf tournaments/outings memorialize his name).
One of the happiest moments of his life occurred June 18, 2016 when he and
Gini were feted at a surprise 50th wedding anniversary party, meticulously
planned and executed by his daughters. Tales old and newer abounded—his VW bug
ending up on the stoops during graduation week, his becoming godfather after
organizing annual Santee golf outings having just completed its ninth edition,
et al. None of Rusty’s West Point secrets (and others) went unspoken that
evening as his E-2 ’61 and ’62 company mates, other West Pointers, even
civilian attendees, ghosts of the past and present, roasted him uproariously.
Sadly, months later, Rusty passed on March 30, 2017. He had no knowledge of
the cancer until July 2016, but made the most of his last days in his people
way. Subsequent to his May 6 Celebration of Life ceremony in Kingsport, some
of which he had scripted, including a last round of golf on the godfather,
Rusty was inurned at West Point’s Columbarium on June 27, 2017.
Rusty is survived by his wife, Gini; younger sister, Alexine; daughters,
Cathy, Marci and Ginny and their spouses Lance, Brad and Eric; and five
grandchildren: Payton, Benjamin, Joseph, Ryan and Hope. He is also survived by
a host of E-2 company mates who honor him for having been the grist so
essential in helping us congeal as a band of brothers (and sisters). What a
happy, loveable, iconic character this 79-year old gentle giant of a man,
known by many for his raspy voice which resonated at such a timber that it was
often audible up to two blocks away, even when he whispered. You’ve lived a
life any man would be humbled to emulate and are much beloved by the many
whose lives you touched. Well done brother! God Bless! Be thou at peace!