After a brave battle with cancer, Mary Catherine Wilkinson’s fight ended peacefully in the early hours of Thursday, February 18, 2021. She passed away surrounded by her loving family. Mary was 62.
Mary was born at Windsor’s Grace Hospital on July 9, 1958 to Barbara and George Gall. She attended Walkerville Collegiate Institute where, in 1970, she met her future husband Mark Wilkinson. Destined to shape young minds, she gave the Valedictory Address to her graduating class in 1976. Mary attended the University of Windsor and, following her passion, graduated in 1980 with a degree in Honours English Literature and Linguistics. She was awarded the gold medal for highest academic standing in her major, an accomplishment born of both hard work and a true love of learning. She carried this enthusiasm forward to the University of Western Ontario, earning a Bachelor of Education Degree and winning a gold and a silver medal for Highest Achievement in Practice Teaching and overall academic standing, respectively.
Mary’s excellence in education continued when she started teaching. Over the course of her career, she inspired students at Centennial Public School (Waterloo), Sprucedale Public School (Shakespeare), King Lear Public School (Stratford), Upper Thames Elementary School and Michell District High School (Mitchell). She always cared deeply for her students and every day, strived to ensure they were prepared not only for high school, but also for life. In the classroom, she engaged her students through her creative and inspiring lessons, contagious enthusiasm and goofy sense of humour. Mary lived by her intrinsic belief that “it’s what’s inside that counts.” She treated everyone with respect, fairness and kindness. She saw the best in people and helped them see the best in themselves. In her heart, Mary knew happiness meant being who you truly are, not what people think you should be.
Mary’s influence on her students extended beyond the classroom. She enhanced their school experience by leading countless extra-curricular activities, such as choreographing operettas, coaching cross-country, organizing the annual Terry Fox Run, and spearheading graduation trips and ceremonies. She was committed to her community, holding a myriad of volunteer positions across multiple organizations such as the Festival City Cooperative Nursery School, Stratford Kinsmen Y Aquatic Club (SKYAC), the Canadian Cancer Society, the United Way and Children’s Aid Society. A lover and patron of the arts, Mary was a member of the Stratford Festival Playwright’s Circle and endeavored to see every single play – and forum chat – every year.
But where Mary shone brightest was as a mother, wife, grandmother and friend. She lived to make her family feel loved and supported, taking joy in the happiness of her two daughters, Jane and Julia. Mary encouraged her daughters to chase their dreams, no matter how ambitious, and was always there to celebrate the victories or pick up the pieces left by a loss. No call was ever too late and no journey was ever too long, even a 10-hour drive to Quebec City or flight to Texas to make a much-appreciated Thanksgiving Dinner for a house full of university students. For her husband Mark, she maintained what she called her “stars and rockets” of true love until the very end. She will be missed, but never forgotten, by her husband Mark, daughters Jane Wilkinson (Frank) and Julia Wilkinson (James), granddaughter Elise Etwell, parents George and Barbara Gall, sisters Elizabeth Hart (George) and Janet Thorpe (Don), mother-in-law Vallie Wilkinson, brothers-in-law Christopher Wilkinson (Maureen), David Wilkinson and Jeffrey Wilkinson, as well as her many nephews, extended family, friends, and those with whom she lived one day at a time. Mary is pre-deceased by her father-in-law John Wilkinson and nephew Adam Wilkinson.
Although Mary is no longer with us, she is not gone. Together, we can make the world a better place by channeling our “Inner Mary”: being there and doing the things that others need when they need it most.
Despite the challenges of the pandemic, Mary’s many friends, neighbours and supporters always found creative ways to lift her spirits during the last year of her life. Their kind words, thoughtful gifts, and comforting meals always made her feel surrounded by love and light. Mary was incredibly grateful for the skilled, hardworking, and most of all kind nurses, doctors and healthcare workers at the Stratford General Hospital Chemotherapy Unit, the London Regional Health Sciences Centre, Victoria Hospital, and the Bayshore Clinic in London.
Mary’s favourite place was outside in nature: she especially loved planting and caring for her trees and watching the sunsets over Lake Huron. As per her wishes, Mary’s ashes will be sprinkled by immediate family at the cottage, where she can forever see the sparkles on the water. Given how many lives she touched and shaped.
A Celebration of Mary’s Life will be held on Saturday, October 2, from 3:30 p.m. until 5 p.m. in the Reception Centre of the W.G. Young Funeral Home. Vaccination proof will be required along with photo ID.
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W.G. Young Funeral Home
430 Huron Street
Stratford, Ontario N5A 5T7
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