Jesse James Wilbert

Jesse James Wilbert died Thursday, May 5, 2011. He was 79.

He was born Nov. 16, 1931, in El Dorado, Ark., to Shep and Gracie Williams Wilbert.

Mr. Wilbert grew up in Arkansas with seven siblings and attended Arkansas Baptist College in Little Rock. After college he moved to Detroit, where he worked at Daimler Chrysler Corp. and then for the city of Detroit.

Mr. Wilbert was at an event hosted by the Detroit Public Library when he met Shirley Smith.

“He was one of those people who believes in family first,” his wife said, “and that was the most important thing to me.”

They married June 18, 1966, and had three daughters. Mr. Wilbert had adopted two daughters and one son during a previous marriage.

“He celebrated each of his children and considered them his greatest blessings in life,” she said.

The two shared a love for travel vacationing in Hawaii and Canada. “When he traveled it was more or less to please me,” she said.

Their favorite destination was Victoria, Canada, where the couple enjoyed traveling home through the waterways near Seattle.

Mr. Wilbert was an avid fisherman along the shores of the lakes of Michigan. “We ate what he caught often. He really knew how to cook fish,” his wife said.

The couple moved to Columbia after they retired, but Mr. Wilbert still supported his Detroit home teams. Every Sunday he could be found in front of the TV cheering on the Detroit Tigers baseball team and the Detroit Lions football team.

“We had two TVs so he could watch his sports, and I could watch something else,” she said, “One of the things he missed most about Detroit was being able to see his teams play.”

Services will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday, May 12, 2011, at New Calvary Baptist Church, 3975 Concord Ave. in Detroit.