Geoffrey Wilson, 93, an administrator at the Free Library of Philadelphia during a 33-year career, died Sunday, Jan. 6, at Rogerson House, a residential facility in Boston, where he had been under care for Alzheimer’s disease.
Mr. Wilson moved to New England nine months ago to be near family after a half-century of living in Mount Airy.
At the zenith of his career, he was director of book selection for adult readers throughout the citywide library system. He joined the staff in 1954 as a librarian and spent time as the head of the Logan and then the Tacony Branches.
A voracious reader of history and biography, Mr. Wilson also took it upon himself to write book reviews for the Inquirer in a casual style that belied his erudition. Most of his reviews were published in the early and mid-1980s.
In a February 1982 article, Mr. Wilson reviewed Rickover: Controversy and Genius by Norman Polmar and Thomas B. Allen. He described the work as an exhaustive study of Adm. Hyman Rickover, the churlish but gifted architect of the nuclear Navy.
Mr. Wilson wrote: “Most military men who dare to buck the establishment soon find themselves either cashiered or banished to a post well behind the lines, but Rickover is one maverick who took over most of the herd.”
The admiral, Mr. Wilson wrote, deserved “nothing less than a thorough and honest portrait. This book provides it.”
In January 1983, he reviewed The Year of the Monkey: Revolt on Campus 1968 to 1969 by William J. McGill.
“In recent years, a heavy calm has descended on college campuses,” he wrote. “The bitter protests that seized campuses 14 years ago are as forgotten as a stack of Bob Dylan records slowly warping in the basement.
“But William J. McGill has by no means forgotten. He still wakes up at night thinking that he hears the angry chants of student demonstrators. His Year of the Monkey is a vivid memoir of his first year as chancellor of the University of California, San Diego.”
As a lover of literature, Mr. Wilson was a member of the selection committee for the Association of American Publishers' list of titles that were displayed at the Moscow International Book Fair in 1979 and 1985, although he didn’t get to go.
Born in Ticonderoga, N.Y., in a summer home on Lake George, he graduated in 1943 from the Lawrenceville School in New Jersey. He served in the Marine Corps from 1943 to 1946, including a year in Japan as part of the U.S. occupational force.
Once back in the United States, he received a bachelor’s degree from Yale University in 1949 and a master’s degree in library science from Columbia University in 1954.
Mr. Wilson lived in the same house on East Gowen Avenue for 56 years. He served a term as inspector of elections in his voting district, continuing a tradition of baking cookies for voters after they cast their ballots, said his son, Timothy.
After retiring in 1987, Mr. Wilson wrote a biography of his grandfather John Wilson Danenhower, a Navy lieutenant and the navigator aboard a ship on a failed 1879 Arctic expedition. The manuscript has not been published.
He spent summers at his cottage on Lake George, a stone’s throw from the cottage in which he had been born. In 2005, he self-published Rogers Rock: The Hotel, the Club, the Cottage Colony, a history of the community.
Mr. Wilson enjoyed following the Phillies on TV. He was devoted to music, taking guitar lessons into his 80s.
He was married to Elizabeth DeCamp Wilson for 63 years, until her death in 2011. A son, Frederick, also died earlier.
In addition to his son Timothy, he is survived by daughters Amy and Mary, and seven grandchildren.