Steely determination and dedication that marked a varied motorsports career was remembered alongside humility, humanity and a zest for life during "Celebrating the Life of Justin Wilson" on Sept. 29 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The program, which was streamed live on IndyCar.com, paid tribute to the veteran Verizon IndyCar Series driver who succumbed Aug. 24 to a head injury sustained in a freak accident the day before in a race. He was 37. A funeral was held Sept. 10 at St. James the Great Church in Paulerspury, England.
"We are here to remember much more than the race car driver. We are here to celebrate a husband, a father, a friend, a role model," Indianapolis Motor Speedway president J. Douglas Boles said in opening remarks. "We are celebrating a man who left this community, this (INDYCAR) family much better than what it was when he first got here."
On and off racetracks around the world, Wilson was an individual that everyone looked up to literally and figuratively. Several video presentations during the program highlighted Wilson's career accomplishments, but more importantly featured his role in the life of his wife and two young daughters, the community and in motorsports.
His passion for racing, devotion to his family and community consciousness will be his legacy.
Wilson, who was diagnosed with the learning disorder dyslexia as a youth, often shared with school children at Verizon IndyCar Series venues how he adapted through assistance from family and teachers and through technology. He also was a regular and eager participant in Racing For Kids visits to children's hospitals. With various race teams in the Verizon IndyCar Series, Formula One and sports car racing, he was an integral member counted on for his technical insights and his quick pace on the track. He also was heavily involved in Verizon IndyCar Series safety initiatives.
Wilson's brother Stefan read a letter penned by his widow Julia, who was in attendance.
"Justin was a good man, father, husband and human being. My world has been turned upside down for now; I miss him every hour of every day," she said in the letter. "Justin was mine and the girls' hero. It has made me realize he was to everybody else, too.
"Not even I realized how big his heart was. By the way it is continuing to beat today makes me smile each time I think of him out there somewhere helping. Knowing that he lives on in others is a comfort.
"At bedtime, he used to read to the girls. I loved to watch him from the side trying his best to read well, knowing he was struggling with his dyslexia made me so proud that he even tried. Jane and Jess are missing their best friend, their climbing frame and the person that made them laugh when mummy was being grumpy.
"I don't want people to be sad but be proud and happy that they knew him. Justin was definitely my one in a million. I am grateful for the time we had with Justin and will cherish every memory."
In closing the program, four-time and reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon presided over a champagne toast in tribute to his friend and fellow competitor, with more than 600 additional glasses raised in the audience of the INDYCAR community.
"You'll be forever in our hearts. We are the lucky ones," he said.
Following the program, Julia Wilson said she has been overwhelmed by the "massive" support of the motorsports community and people around the world.
"The love, kindness and generosity is overwhelming. Some days I don't feel we are deserving of such love," she said. “I have an overwhelmingly massive family that I’ve just found out about and I’m very lucky. Everyone has my back. It’s brilliant and I’m proud to be a part of (the extended family).”
After the announcement of Wilson's passing, there was an immediate outpouring of emotional and charitable support for Wilson's family, which is ongoing via an online auction of racing, sports and entertainment memorabilia. Through Sept. 29, the auction on eBay has raised more than $350,000 for the Wilson Children's Fund. Donations from the INDYCAR community raises the total to nearly $450,000.
A third wave of items up for bid, including a VIP experience to the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race hosted by Team Penske and an NFL game-used football signed by Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, were added to the eBay auction site Sept. 29. CLICK HERE to view and bid. New items are added weekly to the auction, which continues through Oct. 26.
Additionally, a limited edition reproduction of 50 signed and numbered prints of noted artist Bill Patterson’s original work depicting Wilson’s final Indy car victory at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012 – painted live Aug. 31 at the Verizon IndyCar Series Championship Celebration – are available by clicking HERE, with $100 of each print sold contributed to the fund.
Tribute T-shirts are available by clicking HERE, with proceeds also directed to the fund.
Contributions can be made directly to the fund by clicking HERE or by mail to: Wilson Children’s Fund, c/o Forum Credit Union, PO Box 50738, Indianapolis, IN 46250-0738.