Shelby Kirk Wilson

Profile Updated: September 24, 2016
Shelby Kirk Wilson
Residing In Carefree, AZ USA
Spouse/Partner Jan Sanders Wilson
Occupation Architect
Children Virginia Wilson Cannon
Shelby Kirk Wilson



My last memory of Paloverde HS was the yearbook signing party, with the key "word" being the "Mad Bomber". It was merely an M-80 tossed into the trashcan, and all dashed out the door on the eve of spring break. Little did I know that the shock wave would loosen all the ceiling tiles in the school right up to Herr Kemmeries, dean of all men.
Returning to school , at home room I was immediately sent to the deans office.
A perplexed man he was, pointing to my Vans, now replacing faded low cut black Converse tennis shoes, then angrily pointed to the 6 and 9 boldly drawn on my shoes. My efforts to explain the yin and yang thing only pissed him off. I remained silent, then he said "you're the luckiest fucking man alive", and went on to say that the photo editors of Look and Life magazines were in the next room,along with the press to present me a Kodak scholarship, adding I should be expelled because of my earlier actions,but the principal had told him to 'fix it'. This was the same man that on day one of that year had sent me home for actually wearing a T-shirt and Mexican sandals.

Years earlier, we'd entered Palo Verde on its opening day. The smell of fresh paint, a facility never used, a small pencil dot on the timeline of the NewWorld. Now, and this freaks me, we're about 10% of that same timeline.
In that time we saw the Vietnam war start, a president assassinated, the computer....its endless. A big part of Vietnam is still parked on Kolb road, and many of our classmates lives were ended there. Eisenhower had said there is but one Vietnam and it belongs to the north. Guess we just needed a war.

Over the years I realized how great our high school was and what it gave us.
They offered 4 years of 6 languages, advanced mathematics (I graduated with 15 college units), a robust vocational wing, where I dove into photography earning me my Kodak scholarship leading to a one man show on 5th AV in New York, and earning 28 gold medallions, a record still untouched. It was such a great high school.

There I met Priscilla Duddleston whom I woul later marry. But of note it was the night she (and I believe Maggie Witt) knocked on my window, urging me to go to the Yardbirds concert in an abandoned furniture store on Speedway. We were young, rock as we know it,was young, but my parents had said 'no'.
At that moment my life changed. I left home, crawling out the window with a pillowcase of clothes and my savings account book fat with $9000, from newspaper earnings and photo contests.
We drove away to the sound of Satisfaction.
( by the way, the Stones, McCartney, Neil Young, Dylan and others are giving a concert near Palm Springs the night of out reunion)

That next fall I enrolled at the University of Arizona, first as pre-med, then switched to Architecture. High school and my friends slowly faded away..I was into a new chapter of my life, which remains with me to this day.

Architectural school grabs all that you have and more. No frats, sports, and minimal dating. To see Cilla we got married, sort of a shot gun thing..One of my friends thinks blow jobs are over rated, but Cilla must agree and gave me a daughter instead.

Late one night a group of my classmates decided to go to
Venice, Italy to join up with students from other schools. This was a hallmark event. To the shock of the admintrators when we arrived Cilla was pregnant. And to make thing more challenging, with plane tickets paid for we departed with a mere $ 500.

Prior to departing, I'd gone to my banker with forms for a special student loan, and basically said make it happen and left. One day in Venice, the check arrived and later we're off to the hospital in a boat; Priscilla gave birth, but became homesick and returned to Tucson. (the ospedallie Della Pietal, was built in 1311)

University in Europe is different than here. You follow professors, attend lectures, and are in and out of the system for 4-7 years, then ask for an oral exam. An elaborate pass/fail approach. Accordingly, we made up our own projects and drank wine.

One day 4 of us decided to simply travel east to parts unknown - destination wherever. We traveled the Dalmation coast listening to 'the Sea of Joy', lived in Dabrovnic a few days, then tried Albania, and were waived off by 4 tripods of 50cal machine guns.
The roads were horrible. At one point we ripped open our oil pan and crawled into a welcoming village. There we were invited to stay, the blacksmith with the village, hoisted our Fiat up a ramp of logs to old wooden beams using Oxen, and fed us chunks of hardened yogurt . In the room where we stayed a young girl was making yarn with a spinning wheel, her grandmother was looming cloth, as chickens came and went, and we were certain we were in the 16th century. Suddenly a car comes up, and the driver said something, off came the quilt on a box and they turned on a color tv.. The first sound we heard was "Houston, we have a problem". Apollo 13!
It didn't make sense, chickens and space travel!
Back on the road in a day the blacksmiths efforts failed. At a mechanical shop, they picked up the phone to have the state quote a price. With my finger I disconnected the call and offered a Playboy magazine. No problem, the car was fixed and off we went.

Finally, reaching Bosnia, we found one parking spot near a tavern, went in for a beer, then in came 4 soldiers with AK -47s. Those around us asked, "you sell hash?" No. We were arrested anyway. Oddly we entered the building where our car was parked. Though the sign had a little red star, we couldn't read cyralic.
What it said was 'reserved for the general of the army'.
So trial was held in the office of a stuffy general, with pictures of Tito,Breshnev, Stalin-those types.
This lieutenant who spoke Oxford English and was in full dress, replete with leather knee height boots, kept going in a out of the office. When the lieutenant was out of the room, we would trash talk the whole deal, including mr big, who stoically just sat there. The fine was 21 dinar, or about 98cents. That done, and very formally, the general asked his aid to leave and lock the door or something to that effect. The door was slammed in disgust, the the general, in good ol' english, said "You boys like schnapps"? Stunned, we said yes and out came a bottle, glasses and he wanted to know everything about America esp the west. A few hours later we left with a small military escort.

When in the main square of the capitol of Bulgaria, many a soldier would approach, embrace me and stuff 4-5 inch rolls of twenties into my jacket. Then one came , again saying comrade, and handed me a shopping list for the communist store. I shopped, and we all rendezvoused in a dark basement for the exchange.
Soviet officers using me to shop! I knew then it was over, long before Reagan said 'tear down this wall'.

Back in Tucson I resumed school and we held the faculty hostage for 15 units as we needed.

I graduated and was drafted by one of the towns top firms and quickly rose up the ladder. Then bad times hit and I asked to work/ commute with their new Phoenix office, which after a year, my partner to be and I did a hostile take over.
Though there were ups and downs, we were soon a part of young Turks redefining old town Tempe, doing land deals, buying planes and making money.

Well to be contemporary, Priscilla and I got a divorce. Oddly, at the minute of the defining moment, Maggie Witt arrived. It was a short visit. The separation was civil, we even used the same lawyer, and she went on to marry my best friend who, apparently, was her best friend. Shocker!
I wandered for a while then met Jan. We celebrated our 33 anniversary on September 17.

Meeting Jan was a brief introduction at a Friday night beer gathering. We would later meet and have a short conversation. Then one night, there was a knock on my door. As it turned out, she lived just seven units away from me. Her question was: "who is Priscilla?". I explained that was history. Later, I explained that I wasn't looking for a girlfriend, much less a wife. She was on exactly the same page, having been single for twelve years. Accordingly, without any goals or barriers, we went and fell in love, and in two to three weeks, we were contacting family announcing our wedding.
It was the perfect match, and I was smitten. Once a model for Norstroms, and in 66, the centerfold of a Head Ski add in Sports Illustrated, she had an acute business sense, being owner or investor in some 6-7 restaurants. As she said, to do this one must be young single, and a bit crazy. Excellent.
During our brief courtship in a moment joyful insanity, I suggested we walk to her place, butt naked. She freaked, but gave in. I'd said, who's going to be out and about a 2am. So off we went. Half way there, 8 headlights from 4 cop cars went on. Shit. Jan hid as a cop said halt...we weren't moving then. Asked what we were doing. I replied, "Off to make love with my fiancée". "Got any ID?" " You must be kidding". Then lights dimmed and we carried on.
Though our relationship had started casually and slow, we were at Mach 2, very soon.
Our wedding was crazy if not iconic. We d sent an invitation to the President, and received a beautiful reply, which we had greatly enlarged, to become the alter, in the bar where we first met; redecorated and upgraded the sound system. Everyone we knew or dated and all family attending. The ceremony was Apache, followed by shots of tequila. Then came on the Hallaluah chorus, fading into 'Start me Up', and on to 'Should l stay or should I Go'.
We were hit by the press and the front page headline, the next day was

The next day were were off to Hawaii, for a working honeymoon at Jan's latest venture which Jan decided to name Shelby's All American Cafe. Jan's design, managerial and marketing skills put it on the map. Shorted 2mil by investors, we resorted to paint and starving artists, and it was magical.
It was decided to market to locals only, and though we knew it was large, we found it to be the largest restaurant in all of Hawaii.
It would be come 'the place' and though I was primarily there in name only, it literally rocked. On opening night, and often thereafter Honolulu suffered gridlock.

Ever the marketeer, Jan created unique twists like Shelby T-shirts, a new version at regular intervals. "Shot at Shelby's" was a tequila promotion.

Across the street, United Airlines, owned a hotel, for their flight attendants, who were always gifted 'shot cards', and of course everytime I was in town, patrons wanted to be shot with me. And it was common for United to call out my name and have me either look under my seat for a cocktail already made, or push me up to first class.

The momentum grew like a tsunami. As the presidential election approached, she ran me as a write in candidate. Local radio gave Maureen Reagan five minutes; I got an hour. I lost, but spent less and had more fun than Reagan or Mondale.

All this time I was running a firm in Tempe. The firm kept growing, we were the kings of condos, in one year permitting over 6000 units. San Diego was another hot spot, where our building of note was the computer center for the flight simulator for the top gun program, which oddly you can buy the equivalent as an app for your Smartphone. Then we realized this was no way to maintain a marriage, and got out, before it got us. This was good timing, as the Savings and Loan concept was ready to implode.

A year or so earlier, flush and confident, we bought two cabins in the Tonto National Forest, as kind of our 'Camp David'. We loved it,but the economy was drastically changing.

I had a new love, custom homes, and having just completed an award winning project in Tempe, decided Tempe wasn't the best place for this. So we did a life change. We'd had a bad case of chrome fever, 7 cars. We sold 5 or so; my partner and I and split up on a friendly basis; we called the bank and said the home is yours, the key's in the door, and moved our office to Carefree, then we moved to the cabins.

It was sobering, but quickly we embraced the entire concept. Our minds were on fire. Our environs became a sketch pad for whatever we wanted. Life was excellent, and at the perfect pace the new firm grew as did our reputation, then we were totally in demand. Jokingly, our mottos were "no project is too small, no fee is too big" (stolen from Bill Murry- Ghosters); but our favorite was "we can't do average, there's too much competition".

Though their were ups and downs, at on point were were working with 5 clients, each either a CEO or President of a Fortune 500 company.
Jan's ability to think outside the box became incredible, and she was my toughest critic. Clients are tough too. Although the fees were big, we never compromised our quality and high level of design, unknowingly creating a marketing tool for the future.

Still, searching for a secure life, we bought a home in Carefree as we had little trust in the US Forest Service, and as a "town" home.
We got into the dog show "hobby", and concurrently moved to town. Having seen the movie 'BEST IN SHOW' we were certain this breed was a joke. One day, while Jan was at the gym working out, she called. "I don't care what you're doing, but come to the gym now....NOW". There with a lady working out who had a Norwich Terrier. These aren't easy to find, but in time we had one, then two, and eventually 4. This led to dog shows. Of course, you need an RV, and it needs a home, so the "town" home became a project.

Somewhere in there I joined Kiwanis, which in Carefree is a big club that does a lot. This shocked many; then, of all things, I became President,with the motto, "a good club has a good meeting, and a good meeting has a good speaker". I did well. One day with cops we hid little bags of pot throughout the restaurant. It was a drug K-9 show. When it was the time to act, they raided the kitchen to the shock of the staff. My best was sneaking in Metallica for a spellbinding show of what it's like to stand in their shoes.

At one point working so hard, Jan said we need a vacation, even if it's in Cleveland in the winter. I thought that interesting and said so. She replied 'no', so we chose Mexico for a March vacation. Half the resort was clothing optional, and on day two we said what the hell. It was the first of 12 trips. Many are shocked at the idea, which means they never done it. Those the have, do so again. There a true sense of freedom, and it's all unpretentious.

Next came the 'big short' of 08,09. 72% of the Phoenix architects went down, but we crawled through it. It was tough. Though they avoided the word then, they now say recession.

But life came at Jan and I in another unexpected way. In 2011, I was assaulted, and my right was shattered, causing me to have to hold it with my left. Four years, and 355 days later I won my suit, and was paid. I knew it at first then dismissed it, but I had a serious case of PTSD. In addition Jan unknowingly had polymyalgia rheumatica. This was later diagnosed, and affects her to this day, as she fights off pain and other symptoms.

Then on August 30th, 2014, my car caught fire as I was visiting my cabin. It was a serious accident. I try to understand my wife's feelings when 2 cops come to the door, ask if you're the wife of a Shelby Wilson, then go on to explain he was in a serious accident, and was helicoptered to the Maricopa Burn Unit. On 9-11, of all dates they amputated my leg. I'm an amputee.

I'm recovered now. 107 days in a hospital does wonders, and though I wouldn't put it on my bucket list, it's made me a goal setter of the highest order.
Life's been good to both Jan an me, but having to learn to walk again (my other foot goy atrophy), suddenly you have goals like can I take 4 steps tomorrow? That becomes 10, then 20.

Now I drive, work and can walk a mile in 15 minutes.
Failure is the best source of learning , which is why amputees become over zealous.

I'm back at work and have, in one phase or another, maybe three of my top ten homes; one an essay in proportion using gray stone, glass, and black zinc. Another is simply an IMAX in the desert. As you enter the home, your screen a 200ft x 12 curve of glass. Fifteen feet above floor level is filled with nothing but desert. As you walk closer, the mountains recede, and all is sky (Stargazer) Our most recent is virtually horizontal steel and glass and, via solar and working w/ Tesla, will require little electricity. So Life is Good.

Yes, I'm still into photography, collect hand engraved stamps and quarters that are married to an an event that changed us for ever: 1903 air travel. In my youth, I worked at Glacier Park and free climbed 7 peaks. I journal everyday, and have outlined 3 books. I have done set design for 27 Lexus ads, 12 for bmw
and others. Love outdoor cooking; and I'm totally addicted to design.

I was fearful to write this, fearful to submit it or even send the $80.
Since I've never touched Facebook, I'm hitting hundreds of folks with one post. Some may do it weekly daily. For me just this. See you soon

School Story

In English class our senior year, the teacher asked "did anybody do any interesting this last summer?"
I believe it was Margie Fischer who said she'd been to Haight Ashbury, in its embryonic days. "Did you get to try Marijuana?". "Yes". "What was it like?"

Couldn't have done that a few years back

Shelby Kirk's Latest Interactions

Jun 28, 2020 at 11:28 AM

Greg Psaltis would know better than anybody--this man was a professional photographer even in high school.

Great eye.  Great guy.  Saw Shelby at the 50th, and he was the same fine spirit.  RIP, sir.


Shelby Kirk Wilson has been added to In Memory.
Jun 27, 2020 at 1:03 AM
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Oct 07, 2016 at 8:22 PM
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Sep 24, 2016 at 1:21 PM
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Sep 24, 2016 at 11:28 AM
Sep 23, 2016 at 9:27 PM

Sheryl, I remember many a time we'd get the opportunity to interview someone of fame.
Sorry but I can't correlate you with who.. But I do remember Cher, and the Fly Nun, who no one would talk to, so I kept her company, not knowing she'd one day give birth to Forrest Gggggump.
There were others. Remind me if you recall. So,you still write, excellent. A much more powerful media than a photo.

Shelby Kirk Wilson added a comment on his Profile.
Sep 23, 2016 at 7:59 PM
Sep 23, 2016 at 11:56 AM
Sep 23, 2016 at 10:11 AM

No, I did it get your pregnant,though it was on my mind, that photo was propped with a pillow
I think I've known you more than others..we go,back to 8th grade

Sep 23, 2016 at 10:05 AM

Hey roomy...I guess we'll pick up where we left off

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Sep 15, 2016 at 11:23 AM