Lt. Col. (Ret) Theodore "TURTLE" Wilson

December 29, 1967October 17, 2020
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Theodore Douglas Wilson, “TURTLE”, left this earth and the trails and roads he loved so much on October 17, 2020 at the age of 52 in Colorado Springs. His passing followed a storied life of career, educational, and personal accomplishments, and a positive influence on so many that the list would take more columns than we can put in this paper.

His last moments with us were spent with close friends on the amazing trails behind the home he shared with Gwenn, the love of his life. He spoke often about the blessings of going out the back door -- sometimes on two wheels, sometimes with two dogs -- and the adventure of life they created in Colorado. His enthusiasm and energy were with him on his last ride as he challenged himself and motivated his friends. He rode into the arms of God pushing life and his bike to the fullest.

Lt Col (Ret.) Wilson earned his commission and graduated from the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) in May 1990. His experience in political-military policy and analysis, intelligence operations, and as an instructor spanned a career of twenty years. His career also included numerous deployments and leadership positions; as the Commander, National Intelligence Cell, U.S. Forces, Pristina, Kosovo, and as the Deputy Chief of Intelligence Plans, Multi-National Force-Iraq. He served in leadership at HQ US European Command J2 Plans, and at the Joint Staff J2 Directorate in his final tour of active duty. He retired from the USAF in 2010. He later joined MITRE corporation where his work included a multi-month “deployment” to Afghanistan to conduct a data-sharing optimization study. He also provided systems engineering for HQ U.S. Africa Command, including playing a critical role in the design and stand-up of a new Joint Operations Center at Campbell Barracks, Stuttgart, Germany.

TURTLE’s academic accomplishments included a Bachelor of Science from the USAFA, a Master of Science from the University of Arkansas-Little Rock, and a Master of Science from George Mason University. He was a graduate of USAF Squadron Officer’s School, Air Command & Staff College, and Air War College. He was a life-long learner with numerous professional certificates.

A Chicago native, he lit up any room he entered and had a gravitational pull stronger than Jupiter. Always radiating positivity, TURTLE, will be remembered for his booming laughter and endless skills that benefited all of us, especially his chef-level cooking and love of cycling! Most remarkable though was his endless positivity, support, and generosity. This wonderful man made any organization, team, family, party, or bike ride better.

The “before TURTLE” was a patriotic military officer with a tremendous sense of service to the nation. Shortly after retiring from the Air Force began the “After TURTLE” where he became so well known that if you asked about “Theodore”, no one would know who you were talking about. He took so much pride in his nickname that it became an indelible part of his persona that created so much love. TURTLE transcended a sport that is often far too focused on success and winning, and he made it about bringing good people together to share a joyous experience. He brought out the best in us by emphasizing that friendship, good food, good drink, and believing that stopping for an espresso and cake (and beer), AKA Kaffee and Küchen, were as important as how many miles you ride or the kind of bike you owned.

He may not have known how many friendships he created just by being a good friend and connecting the TURTLE world to others. His approach of LIVING OUT LOUD infused energy and light into every situation, and his unfailing belief in each one of us often exceeded our own. That is his magic and his legacy – that he inspired us, showed us what we were capable of in the face of our own doubts, and loved so many so much. This great friend lived life in The Big Ring.

TURTLE is survived by his wife Gwenn Afton; his daughters Helena Wilson and Johanna Wilson; his mother Kathryn LaVerne Wilson; his father Paul Edward Price—who served honorably in the United States Marine Corps; his siblings Darnell Wilson, Adam Gaden, Marina Joyner, Kylie Anderson (Russell), and LaSar Martin; and a host of cousins, nieces and nephews. A viewing will be held at Swan-Law Funeral Directors in Colorado Springs on Sunday, October 25, 1100-1300. An honor guard burial will be conducted at United States Air Force Academy on Tuesday, October 27, 1300.

In lieu of flowers, please consider supporting TURTLE’s can-do attitude and willingness to always help by donating to the fundraising project he began. Your contributions will help spread TURTLE’s unmatched positivity and generosity. The GoFundMe link, with details is as follows:


  • Gwenn Afton, Wife
  • Helena Wilson, Daughter
  • Johanna Wilson, Daughter
  • Kathyrn LaVerne Wilson, Mother
  • Paul Edward Price, Father
  • Darnell Wilson, Brother
  • Adam Gaden, Brother
  • Marina Joyner, Sister
  • Kylie Anderson (Russell), Sister
  • LaSar Martin, Brother
  • Turtle is also survived by a host of cousins, nieces and nephews.


  • Visitation

    Sunday, October 25, 2020

  • Graveside Service

    Tuesday, October 27, 2020


Lt. Col. (Ret) Theodore "TURTLE" Wilson

have a memory or condolence to add?

Kathryn Laskey

April 7, 2021

TURTLE was a student in the capstone project course I taught in the spring of 2017. Coming at the culmination of a student’s studies for the Masters’ degree, the capstone course requires groups of students to take on a challenging real-world project. TURTLE and his team came up with their own idea for a project, found an interested sponsor, and reached out to me to request that they work together on the idea. For their sponsor in the United States Africa Command (USAFRICOM), they tackled a project to enhance USAFRICOM’s ability to recover injured US personnel in Africa. The group called themselves the ROCKSTARs. They stand out in my mind as one of the most motivated and committed groups I have had the privilege to guide in my many times teaching the capstone course. TURTLE’s infectious enthusiasm and his military experience were a big part of the group’s success. From reading the tributes here, I can see that the way he poured himself into his capstone project was characteristic of how he approached life. I am glad I had the chance to know him and to have been a part of his education.

Aguascalientes Crew

January 28, 2021

I feel so grateful to have been one of the lucky people whose lives were touched by Turtle. Over the course of just a few days in the velodrome and meals in which the four of us talked about our lives, passions, and dreams for the future, I felt like we had genuinely met a kindred spirit. That spirit lives on ... out loud and in the big ring! ... and we will do what we can to contribute to the chorus of admirers who are trying to sustain that message and follow Turtle's example. 
~Molly Van Houweling

When Turtle and Gwenn showed up in Aguascalientes and we met in the cages under the track, I knew almost immediately that I had a new partner in logistics and love of cycling.   Over the next few days I watched from up by the video camera as Turtle launched person after person on the track in their quest for records.   He helped them to literally live life in a slightly bigger ring.   In more figurative ways this is what he did for us all.   I feel lucky to have enjoyed his company and better for it as well.
~Rob Van Houweling

Conocer a Turtle fue una fortuna ya que los pocos momentos que estuvimos a su lado fueron muy divertidos y alegres siempre tenia una sonrisa y  algo que contar. Recuerdo varios momentos de su vida como militar que me contó y fue algo increíble de escucharlo, Tortuga es y será una gran persona a la cual será recordado con cariño por todos nosotros.
~Juan y Erika

Rick Castrop

January 5, 2021

Long days, long nights, fighting the good fight while serving with the United States Air Forces, Europe 1998-2001. Then, the countless times running into him after we both retired from the Air Force, I never saw Turtle without a smile on his face. He was the "standard setter" for all of us. Take buddy, we'll see you then.

Stephen Smith

December 28, 2020

I met Turtle at the tail-end of military career but then when he began his new civilian chapter shortly afterwards... I worked on and with with him during my years in stationed in Germany. I found him always quick to smile, he treated everyone as if they were a brother/sister, he was a mentor to many who sought his counsel. It only today (28DEC20) that I was going through some emails from him and decided to call regarding one he he sent to ask something... when someone else answered his work phone and told me what happened I couldn't speak and politely said goodbye. I will miss you Turtle... may you be at peace.

Vince Schons

November 13, 2020

I was fortunate enough to have been a classmate of "Theodore" at the Academy. Ted was always full of life, a truly great human being, as you can see by the many testimonials posted in his honor.

One memory I thought I'd share with the family about Ted. After graduation, I had not seen Teddy for many, many years. Over the years I, too, picked up the cycling bug. I regularly ride on a 7 day, 500 mile bike ride in July across Iowa known as RAGBRAI with over 20,000 other riders. Each year on RAGBRAI there are one or two killer climbs that take their tole on a lot of the recreational riders, forcing many to dismount and walk up the hill. Well one year as I approached one such hill, here comes back DOWN the hill, the wrong way, this larger-than-life personality shouting encouragement to all the other riders to not give up and keep on pedaling. Of course, it was Ted. He rode up and down that hill several times, always trying to help others persevere through their challenges. I ended up talking with him later that night and it was like I had just seen him at the Academy a week earlier. He was that kind of person.

You have my deepest condolences on your loss. People like Ted cannot be replaced; but we can always appreciate how lucky we were to have him in our lives, if only for a moment.

Rest in Peace Turtle,

Gail Shines

November 12, 2020

Just got the wind knocked out of my sail!!! Just thought to look up my old friend from my days in high school tonight. Only to find out that he has passed away. I knew him as Ted. He ran track for Mendal High School, he was smart as a whip and lived in Princeton Park. There is no surprise that he continued to light up space and lives with his effervescent eyes. laugh and personality. My condolences to his mom and brother Darnell and siblings; to his wife and children and to his multitude of friends that he met along the way. So glad to have met him on the diving board of his life. It sounds like he made all of his dreams come true.

Louis Werdebach

November 5, 2020

I am deeply saddened by the untimely passing of "Turtle" Wilson. I was able to work closely with him during my time at the Defense Intelligence Agency. I was struck by his energy and his wit. He will be missed. Deep condolences to his wife, Gwenn, whom I have known for much longer, and his family and close friends. He will be well-missed.

Louis M. Werdebach
Retired Senior Executive, C4I & Cyber
Defense Intelligence Agency

Jeffrey Winterkorn

October 29, 2020

I never knew Theodore but I have heard some amazing stories about his life the past few days from my fellow colleauges who did know him. He sounded like an amazing man who lived life to the fullest. I am sending tons of love to his wife, family and friends from Chicago. I will keep you all in my thoughts and prayers.

Melissa Draper

October 27, 2020

T! My best guy, my brother for nearly half my life. I’m devasted beyond words. It was 1996 when I met T! at LRAFB in Arkansas. I was the base veterinarian and taught aerobics at night. My first memory of him is him owning the aerobics room with his giant laugh and huge personality. I wondered “whats he so happy about and how does everyone in this room know him”? He was a man that could live in the moment and his joy of life was infectious.

When he left to move to Germany, I left to move to Texas. He told me that he would always keep in touch and was true to his word. He visited many times over the years, the most memorable staying for about a month in Austin. He had tickets to a Livestrong event including dinner, Cheryl Crow concert, Robin Williams and a variety of other well-known entertainers. We were among the first to arrive, seating ourselves at the front. He wasn’t sure where we were supposed to sit and as it turned out we had put ourselves next to the entertainers. We smugly patted ourselves on the back for our seating choice. During the meal we were joined by three other couples and only then realized we were sitting at a sponsored table, tickets costing well above what had been paid. It didn’t matter, the other couples were absolutely entertained by T! and refused to let us move. They even took down the sponsored tag so that nobody else could come in and move us away. They had only just met him but wanted to spend that evening with this enthusiastic and joyous man. The best way to describe him was that everyone thought that they were his best friend. He was a man of faith, always positive and loved everyone.

I will forever miss him. My heart goes out to his lovely wife Gwenn, whom he loved and adored, family that I felt as though I knew from the stories he told, his children and his friends from around the world. I can’t imagine a lifetime of not hearing his voice and his “MAD LOVE for you my Dr D”.

Christopher Burke

October 27, 2020

Theo’s nickname “Turtle” was in the true self-deprecating form Theo always preferred as he built those around him up.
Early in his commuting days in Germany (around 1997), the newly-formed RACC (Ramstein Area Cycling Club), popularized by Patrick Morrow in the Kaiserslautern Military Community newspaper, we formed a lunchtime training circuit: Tuesday Time Trial and Thursday hill-sprints. Many times during these training events, a “rabbit” would power their bike away from the group, then would be chased down by the main pack of riders. Theo would comment on how he was the opposite of the rabbit, therefore the “turtle” of the group (but he wasn’t), and the name stuck.