Gordon William “Peanut” Wilder
Plainfield, N.H. — Peanut Wilder passed away on Tuesday, March 11, 2014, at age 71. He fought a long and courageous battle against pancreatic cancer.
He was born August 12, 1942, in Windsor, Vt., the 5th of seven children of Harold and Mildred (Stearns) Wilder. He lived his whole life in Plainfield, and graduated from Windsor High School in 1960, where he was a member of the WHS State Champion baseball team that year. That same year, following the death of his father, he helped his mother manage the family dairy farm while also working as a delivery driver for Jenney Potato Business in Plainfield. He worked 16 years at Split Ball Bearing in Lebanon, working his way to Supervisor of three departments. In 1976, he left Split Ball to become a trusted, knowledgeable and self-taught farrier.
In 1962, he married Fern Barber from Windsor, whom he met in high school. They built their first home on a corner of the family farm so that Peanut could remain nearby to help with farm management.
Peanut believed in raising his own food and providing for his family’s livelihood as much as possible throughout his life.
Peanut was an avid hunter and worked hard in later years to train dogs to track bears, bobcats and wild boar. He derived great pleasure from hunting in remote New Hampshire and Vermont wilderness areas, often following dogs for miles through the woods from one township to another. He was a Licensed N.H. Guide and hosted many notable clients, including the doctor for the Shah of Iran.
Since the early 1970s, Peanut was honored to be a friend and caretaker of Justice Stephen Breyer and Doctor Joanna Breyer and their family, a privilege in which he took great pride.
From an initial experiment in his basement with gravity-fed water, he engineered, built and managed Hy-On-A Hill Trout Farm, Inc. with Fern and their sons for the next 30 years. The trout business grew to annual hatches of 200,000 brook and rainbow trout, becoming one of the largest suppliers in the Northeast.
In the early 1990s, continual losses of fingerlings prompted an in-depth investigation, resulting in a discovery that stray voltage coming through the ground to the tanks caused undue stress and ultimately death to the fingerlings. As a consequence of these findings, power companies changed their grounding methods for dairy farms and other agricultural enterprises.
As part of his aquacultural endeavors, Peanut entered into a pilot program with John Lindbergh (son of Charles Lindbergh). For this pilot program the Wilders raised Chinook salmon for introduction and establishment into the Atlantic Ocean.
In 1982, Peanut received the Sullivan County Conservation District’s Cooperator of the Year Award and the Goodyear Conservation Award.
He belonged to the U.S. Trout Farmers’ Association, comprised of five Regional Aquaculture Centers (RAC) in the country and served on its Board of Directors.
From 1986 to 1990, he served as the Sullivan County Representative on the NH Fish & Game Commission and was active in the effort to re-establish wild turkeys into New Hampshire.
Peanut served on the Town of Plainfield’s Conservation Commission and will be remembered in Plainfield as a good steward of the land, encouraging the use of our natural resources with good, renewable practices.
He was a life member of the Benevolent Protective Order of Elks in Lebanon, NH, and for many years provided trout for the children’s annual fishing derby.
He was a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association.
In 2003, when the trout farm was sold he built another home and barn above the trout farm where he and Fern continued to pursue their dream of breeding, raising, and training Egyptian Arabian horses.
During the last months of his life, he found enjoyment writing his ‘Recollections’ of life in Plainfield for the monthly PlainFacts publication – a talent not revealed to his family in prior years.
His family was the love of his life, and he always put his whole heart into trying to teach and help his sons acquire a broad and knowledgeable foundation for life. He persevered to solve any problem before him, not giving up until he had an answer and was a strong advocate for principles in which he believed. He felt he lived a dream, as he always had ambitious goals and worked hard to make them become realities. He was in his glory whenever he was working with his family or when he was hunting with his hounds in the great woods of New Hampshire and Vermont. He was pleased to have been able to create a business where he could work side by side with his loving wife, Fern, for much of their 51 years together.
Besides his wife, he leaves three sons, all of whom live in Plainfield: Mark (wife, Nancy); Shawn (wife, Laura); and Brad. He also leaves three grandchildren: Sarah, Aaron and Nicholas, and a step-grandson, Jamie Ordway. Of the seven siblings in his family, two survive him: Harold, Jr. (wife, Yvonne) of Fremont, N.H., and Sandra Heald (husband, Ken) of Madbury, N.H. Four siblings predeceased him: Ina Louise Whitney (husband, John of Franklin, Vt.), Elizabeth Kimball (husband, Stephen), Howard (wife, Ola of Lincoln, N.H.) and Gerald.
A Celebration of Peanut’s Life will be held in Plainfield later in the Spring.
The family is especially grateful to the doctors and professional staff at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center for their warmth and continuing care during Peanut’s illness and to the Visiting Nurse and Hospice of Vermont and New Hampshire for their special care of him during his final days.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Friends of Philip Read Memorial Library, c/o Nancy Norwalk, 1088 Route 12-A, Plainfield, NH 03781, phone 603-675-6866.
Knight Funeral Homes in Windsor, is helping with arrangements.