Wilmer “Will” Thomas Wilkerson

July 5, 1949 - February 1, 2022


Wilmer Thomas “Will” Wilkerson, age 72, of Joplin, walked through the doors of Heaven on February 1, 2022.  Will was born July 5, 1949 in Quincy, Illinois, to Alfred Vershell Wilkerson of Argyle, Iowa, and Leah Leona Benge Wilkerson of Quincy, Illinois.  Will was raised outside of small Argyle, Iowa.

His passion was Matsubyashi-ryu Karate, which he taught for 40 years.  He achieved the rank of 6th degree black belt under Robert Yarnell of St. Louis and he was inducted into the hall of fame for his style in 2008.  He competed around the United States, including the 1991 World Police and Fire Games, bringing home a silver medal.  Will was influential in countless lives, imparting not only the moves, but the spirit and philosophies of his martial art.  He was something a historian for his style and could be counted on for a story of his spiritual forebears when the conversation turned to the past.  He is survived by his extended family “Pine Forest Way Karate” of Columbia, Missouri, as well as all of his other friends and family in the Martial Arts community to which he dedicated so much of his life.

He worked in construction and always said he loved changing houses into homes.  He and his soulmate, Jeanie, met in Columbia, Missouri, when he resumed teaching classes.  He always explained he was sure she would never come back for the second class, but she was determined and after several years he moved to Joplin, Missouri, to be with her.  Ballroom dancing became their love; they then danced through life and were gifted with the love of those around them and the love between them.

Will was preceded in death by his sister, Christine Magdelene Wilkerson, and his brother, Richard Eugene “Lucky” Wilkerson.  He is survived by his beloved, Jeanie Marie Morrison; brothers, Alfred Vershell “Rocky” Wilkerson, Jr., James Alan “Smokey” Wilkerson, and Mance Leroy “Dusty” Wilkerson; grandchildren, Hailey Lynn Ketchum Ireland, Grant Michael Ketchum, Juliette Margaret Wilkerson, Waylon James Wilkerson; and one great-grandchild, Easton James Ireland.

Private services are pending in Columbia, Missouri. Arrangements are under the direction of Parker Mortuary.