Jonathan Wilkins, hard-working family man and No. 1 Eagles fan, dies at 61
He followed the Eagles as if he owned the team and liked nothing better than to talk friendly trash when the Birds won. His Facebook page is covered with photos of him in Eagles gear.
Jonathan Wilkins, 61, a Philadelphia native, devoted family man who showered his stepchildren with the same love and attention as his biological children, and a passionate Eagles fan, died Sunday, Aug. 1, of prostate cancer at his home in Stockton, Calif.
Mr. Wilkins was the ultimate family man. He grew up in West Philadelphia with 11 siblings, and went on to be a father of three daughters and father figure to three stepdaughters.
He was married three times, reconnected and wed his third wife after they had broken up earlier, and made it a habit to become friends with practically everyone he met.
He followed the Eagles as if he owned the team and liked nothing better than to talk friendly trash when the Birds won. His Facebook page is covered with photos of him in Eagles gear, and he always made sure to have his chores done and green jersey on when the games started.
“He was the perfect example of what a hardworking father looks like,” said his oldest daughter, Rayanna Tomlin. “He would do anything for anybody, and he made it a point to treat all his children the same. He always kept his family first.”
Born July 25, 1960, Mr. Wilkins graduated from West Philadelphia High School in 1978. He liked to attend church, and took special pleasure in keeping watch over his six sisters. His father, James, and mother, Melinda, instilled their love of family in all their children, especially Mr. Wilkins.
His first job was as a landscaper with his father’s business, Wilkins and Sons Landscaping, and he also worked as a machinist at SPS Technologies in Jenkintown, a groundskeeper at Abington Friends School, and a maintenance technician at the Northern Virginia Community College campus in Woodbridge, Va.
Later, after he moved to Stockton in 2012, he did car detailing for friends and neighbors.
Nicknamed Big Jon, Mr. Wilkins liked to fish, hunt, swim, and travel to visit family in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, and Chicago. He was known for his “hearty laugh, dazzling smile, and great sense of humor [that] quickly won over anyone meeting him even for the very first time,” his family wrote in a tribute.
He lived in Mount Airy and Germantown, was strict with his children about being clean and on time for appointments, and liked to listen to jazz while he did laundry. He retired after he had a stroke in 2010.
Mr. Wilkins and his third wife, Dr. Lisa Cooper Wilkins, spent time together when they were younger, split up, then got back together about 10 years ago. Their fifth wedding anniversary was Sept. 9.
She recalled that he liked to help their neighbors by collecting their trash cans and running errands for them. He was such a presence he was known as the governor of the neighborhood.
“He made such an impression on people,” his wife said. “I think our neighbors felt comforted knowing he was there. He was such a great guy.”
Said a family friend in an online post, “Jon Wilkins was the best neighbor anyone could have!”
In addition to his wife and daughter, Mr. Wilkins is survived by former wives Cynthia Wilkins and Tammie Wilkins; former partner Carla Lorie; daughters Aurielle and Shanice; stepdaughters Janell Powell, Chanel Sims, and Jessica Smith; 13 grandchildren; one great-grandson; five sisters; four brothers; and other relatives. A sister, brother, and granddaughter died earlier.
A service was held in Stockton on Aug. 28, and a private service is to be Saturday, Sept. 18, in Philadelphia.
Donations in his name may be made to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, 1250 Fourth St., Santa Monica, Calif. 90401.