Colton Wilson’s Story: A Family’s Love
By Kathy Bedell, © Leadville Today
This past Monday, Feb. 9, I spent the afternoon with Colton Wilson’s family, walking the woods along the Mineral Belt Trail, near the Colorado Mountain College (CMC) campus. I was honored to join them, as they set out with a few friends to have a private ceremony. They planned to lay flowers at the site where Colton’s body was recovered, to mark the memory of their beloved son and brother.
His family asked me to share Colton’s story.
Colton Shane Wilson was born and raised in Oklahoma. Next week, Feb. 21, he would have turned 20 years old. He went missing on Jan. 29, on the Colorado Mountain College (CMC) campus in Leadville and his body was found 8 days later in the school’s woods on Feb. 6. Colton was the son of Charles and Linda Wilson, and brother to 14-year-old sister, Claire, all of Norman, OK.
Colton was enrolled in the Outdoor Recreation Leadership program at CMC. He had just started school last month, but for a young man who grew up hunting and fishing in a close-knit family, who loved the outdoors, the choice of study was a natural one.
“Me and Colton hunted in every state, and Africa” said his Dad Charles Wilson. “This was a kid who knew his way around the outdoors.”
Last December, Mr. Wilson and his son Colton came to Leadville to check out CMC, as one of several schools that the family was considering for Colton to continue his education.
Charles relayed that one of the things that cemented the choice for Leadville, was that during their visit, Colton saw someone leave Pizza Hut on horseback with their order. It’s the kind of Leadville story that resonates with most transplants. Some crazy sighting or event that hooks you in, makes you want to come live here.
Colton was a momma’s boy at heart. He didn’t like to see anyone get picked on; he had a kind, gentle manner. And Colton’s Mom, Linda, is clearly a woman dedicated to her family, a mother and wife first. Mom and son communicated daily, sometimes several times a day by phone.
“I knew he was gone, in those woods, after that first night,” said Linda Wilson. “Call it a mother’s instinct. I just knew.”
Colton’s Dad Charles Wilson is a veteran law enforcement officer, and presently Chief at the Cleveland County OK Sheriff’s Office.
“For 32 years, I was the guy who went to people and said, we found your daughter, your son, your mother,” he shared during the hike. “I never thought that someone would come and say that to me.” It was clear that they had a very special bond, this father and his son.
Growing up on wide-open Oklahoma ranches, Colton has known to take off early in the morning, and might not be seen the rest of the day, exploring the world, only to return at dusk with a few more bumps and bruises. And with those, also came his fair share of injuries, like the compound fracture from the motor scooter, and stitches, lots of stitches.
And as most big brothers do, he brought his sister Claire along for the ride from time to time. The result is what is known in the Wilson Family as “the golf cart incident at Grandma’s,” and a broken collar bone for his younger sibling. However, if his sister had her ride of choice, it would most likely be on a horse, as she is an accomplished equestrian and big-time animal lover. A lovely young woman with a strong spirit, Claire certainly lives up to her father’s pet name for her: “my most beautiful.”
Spending time with the Wilsons, the gentle familiarity of this family reveals itself quickly: their special pet names for each other, the inside jokes, and the memories.
Some of those stories are almost Norman Rockwell-ish , like young Colton’s over-sized cowboy boots, with one pant leg tucked in, one tucked out. Others tales are a bit more Bart Simpson, like the stink bomb incident at the middle school, that will now always be a part of Colton’s legacy.
But life isn’t a painting or cartoon. It has real issues and real problems. And everyone, every family, has them.
“To have a child lost is the worst experience in the world,” said Charles, fighting back the tears. “I want people to know that Colton was a good boy.”
The official cause of Colton Wilson’s death will be released by the State Medical Examiner in “about 8 weeks.” An autopsy was performed on Monday, Feb. 9, before he was released to the family.
“You know, I’m a man, that my whole life, when something was asked of me, I would say, ‘yes, I can do that.’ And I did it, except for bringing my son home to my wife and daughter. I couldn’t do that,” Wilson said, referring to his initial trip to Leadville to try and find Colton. Wilson eventually had to return home to Oklahoma to secure permission to come and search for his son with private resources, eventually returning to Leadville with his wife and daughter to retrieve their beloved.
Colton’s family did bring him home to Oklahoma, this Tuesday, Feb. 10. No doubt, his hometown will celebrate and pay tribute to this young man in a manner that will not only be honorable and fitting, but will lift his family way above Leadville’s 10,200 feet.
The family of Colton Wilson wanted to relay a heartfelt thank you to the following people for their help and support during this difficult time: Oklahoma Congressman Markwayne Mullin, Colorado Congressman Scott Tipton, OK State Rep. Jon Echols , CO State Rep. Millie Hamner, Bonnie Guzman with Colorado Forensic Canines, Officer Kim Delorme, State Trooper Don Delorme, Dave Wright (The Golden Burro), the Cleveland County OK Sheriff’s Office, Lake County Coroner Shannon Kent, Colton’s friend and classmate Sara Sickles and the local volunteers.