Joe Wilson has been the owner and chief executive officer of PermaTreat Pest Control in Fredericksburg since 1982. The Virginia native was a Fredericksburg City councilman from 2000 to 2004. Wilson, 69, is married to Mary and they have three daughters and seven grandchildren. Wilson sat down with Fredericksburg Parent and Family magazine to answer questions about another significant endeavor in his life—grandparenting.
Fredericksburg Parent: Tell us a little about yourself.
Joe Wilson: I was raised in Buena Vista, Va., near Lexington. I attended Washington and Lee University, as well as University of Richmond. I came to Fredericksburg in 1965 when I was 20 years old, working with Orkin Pest Control. Spotsylvania and Stafford each had a population of about 12,000, and Fredericksburg had 17,000 people. I remember distinctly that there was one traffic light in Spotsylvania. I left the area for the Midwest, but came back in 1982 and purchased PermaTreat. We had six employees, including myself, and one branch location on Lafayette Blvd. Today we've grown to over 130 employees and eight service locations throughout Virginia. I like to say our claim to fame is that we service the state capitol building.
FP: Tell us about how you raised your children.
JW: My wife was the primary person that raised the children, and I traveled a lot and was always on an airplane. One of the problems with traveling is that I would not get to see the kids each day. On the positive side, when you get back off the road, you could see the difference a week made. They all grew an inch or two. We had a very good family situation. I like to brag that I was able to raise three daughters with no drug problems. Not even cigarettes.
FP: What was family time like at your house?
JW: We had a cottage up in Wisconsin that we would go to in the summer time. There were a lot of opportunities in the winter for skating, playing in the snow and occasionally skiing. October in Wisconsin was beautiful and full of festivals — Oktoberfest, bratwurst. Our Illinois house had a lot of outdoor function to it. We had a summer kitchen. We could have lots of people over for entertaining.
FP: What was it like to become a grandparent?
JW: Laughs. I thought I was much too young to become a grandparent. I was not in the grandparent "mode," and I guess it's because I was 20 years old when we had our first daughter. So, I was not much over 40 when I became a grandparent. By the time the second one came along, I was used to it. As four, five and six arrived, I got more into the groove. My oldest daughter lives in Roanoke, Va., and the middle daughter lives in Atlanta, Ga. Our youngest daughter lives in Fredericksburg along with her 10-year-old daughter. My granddaughter keeps me young! She knows just what buttons to push to keep my juices flowing.
FP: Do you spoil the grandkids?
JW: I try not to. My wife tells me I am much too serious and stern. I was raised in a family where my mother was Scottish-Irish and my father was German. But when it comes to spoiling, my wife is the best at it. I don't think she ever says no. "You raise our granddaughter 180 degrees differently than how you raised our three daughters," I tell her. And her reply is, "That's what grandmas are for."
FP: What are your favorite things to do with your grandchildren?
JW: We love to camp down in the Northern Neck in our RV. We also enjoy going playing ball or riding bikes on the new canal path downtown. I just took my granddaughter to the Marine Corps Museum as well as a Civil War museum.
FP: What advice do you have for new grandparents?
JW: First thing I would say is be careful that you don't step on the parents' toes when you are trying to overrule disciplinary actions. Grandparents are very quick to give their opinions. Maybe it's good to keep your opinions to yourself.
Being grandparents allows you to make up for the times that you didn't pay close attention to your own children when they were growing up. You can now slow down and enjoy your grandchildren...it's a rather amazing experience to watch.
Kerry Pinto is a freelance writer living in Stafford.