Steven Wilson: Longtime educator, college basketball referee was a proud Husky

Steven Wilson

With his wife Carol by his side, Steve passed away on November 10, 2023, at his home in Arizona.

Born April 6, 1942, Steve spent most of his childhood and teenage years in Ballard, where he formed lifelong friendships. He also met his future wife in elementary school and started dating her in the 9th grade. He graduated from Ballard High School in 1960 and led its basketball team to the state championship tournament that year. He was an All-City and All-State choice before graduating. Two dozen colleges offered scholarships to him, but he chose the school he had dreamed of playing at since boyhood: the University of Washington. He was a varsity player for three years, earning All-Coast honors and serving as Husky captain his senior year. In the 1963 season finale, as the final seconds ticked away, he sank the basket that beat Washington State 59-57. In the 1964 season debut at Hec Edmundson Pavilion, he scored 23 points against Texas Western (now UTEP), a team that would lose only once the rest of the year.

He was also a proud member of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity, and counted many of those “brothers” as his best friends 60 years later.

Steve graduated from the UW with a history degree, and began his 42-year career in education teaching at Meany Middle School in Seattle. His passion for public education, and the kids who walked those halls, fueled his progression from teacher to school administrator to district superintendent and finally Chief Academic Officer for the Seattle School District. He impacted thousands of students at Garfield and Ingraham High Schools in Seattle, South Kitsap HS in Port Orchard, Sahuaro HS in Tucson, and as the Superintendent of Steilacoom— to name a few.

But there was always basketball. After graduating, he started in 1965 officiating for city leagues and church leagues, before starting to climb the ladder. He was one of the original 16 members who, in 1968, formed the Washington Association of College Officials (WACO) to officiate junior college and small college games on the west coast. In 1971, he was invited to work for the Pac-8 (it became the Pac-10 in 1979 and Pac-12 in 2011) and he continued to referee for three decades.

There wasn’t much that slowed him down, until January 29, 1998, in the first half of an Arizona-Stanford game when he had to call an official’s timeout because of chest pain and shortness of breath. Both team doctors escorted him to the locker room and subsequently sent him by ambulance to Stanford Medical Center, where he learned he’d suffered a heart attack. Not allowed to fly back to Seattle, he spent more than a week in the hospital hearing well wishes from Pac-10, Big Sky and other conference refs.

A quadruple bypass was next up, but he was back in Seattle at Swedish Medical Center by then. Steve worked hard (and stopped smoking) in order to recover and regain his strength. He was able to outrun his heart disease for two more decades, but in April 2019 he stopped running. He opted to have a Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD), a battery-operated mechanical pump, put in his chest so that it could pump blood from the left ventricle to the rest of his body — and give him almost five more years with his wife, three daughters, seven grandkids and a great-granddaughter.

He wasn’t running up and down a court anymore, but he was connecting with friends from across the U.S. almost every day, talking on the phone, texting and just staying in touch with people who had been an important part of his life since high school and beyond.

You won’t find three girls who adored their dad as much as Kimberly, Kristin and Kaare did. He was a literal and figurative giant in their lives (it’s awesome when your dad is 6’7″ and you never lose him in a crowd). He was also loved by his seven grandkids, who never found him lacking for a great story or a not-so-great dad joke. And 18 months ago he had the honor of welcoming his first great-grandchild into the fold — another girl, of course.

Steve was a fighter. His heart disease threw so many curveballs at him, but he was a master at framing the pitch. There’s no question the tenacity of an athlete got him to his 81st year, but it still feels like we are all a bit gypped in the end. Mighty are the men who wear the purple and the gold!

Steve is survived by his wife of 61 years, Carol; his three daughters Kimberly Parker (Dean), Kristin Abraham (Brent), and Kaare Whitelaw (Eric); grandchildren Chase (Jésus), Brock (Marizon), Jackson (Laura), Tara, Gunnar, Bjorn and Bergen; and great-granddaughter Philippa.

As per his wishes, there will be no service. If you would like to make a donation in Steve’s name to the Wounded Warrior Project (www.woundedwarriorproject.org), he would love that.

  1. Steve was a class act. I officiated a few games with him Tuesday or Friday nights. I was a Seattle cop. I also visited him when he was either a principal or vice principal at Ingraham or Garfield.
    He was the kind of guy who I thought would live forever.
    Now that I have Congestive Heart Failure, can appreciate what he has gone through.

  2. Mr. Steven Wilson was my high school principal at Ingraham High School. He was a remarkable individual who left an indelible mark on the lives of those fortunate enough to know him. Mr. Wilson exemplified dedication, warmth, and an unwavering commitment to the well-being of others.
    Standing at an impressive 6’7″, Mr. Wilson’s towering presence was matched only by the enormity of his heart. Despite his stature, he possessed a rare gift of making everyone feel valued and heard. His office, a sanctuary where countless conversations about basketball and volleyball unfolded, was a testament to his approachability and genuine interest in connecting with his students.
    The threads of connection didn’t end with high school. The joy of reconnecting with Mr. Wilson during the shared experiences of my son and his grandson playing on the same baseball team further illustrates the lasting impact he had on multiple generations.
    In the tapestry of our memories, Mr. Steven Wilson’s imprint will forever remain, and he will be dearly missed by all who had the privilege of knowing him.

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