Just as it wasn’t hard to find her husband’s work around the city, it wasn’t hard to find internationally acclaimed painter/ muralist R. York Wilson’s widow, Lela M. Wilson, back in 2003. I simply flipped to the correct page in the phone book. However, Ms. Wilson, then 92 years old, thought I was trying to sell her a Globe and Mail subscription, so she tried, politely, to end the conversation; luckily, I managed to convince her of my interest in her husband, who had passed away 19 years before, and the home they had built together on the northern edge of Wychwood Park in 1955.
About a week later, I found myself sitting comfortably in her cozy living room – decorated with objects from all over the world owing to their nomadic lives – as she mixed a tray of gin and tonics and prepared a cheese plate in her tiny kitchen. In the seven years that followed before her death in 2010, I would visit the Wilson house often, and my appreciation for the paintings of Ronald York Wilson would grow and grow.
That’s why I think she’d love that one of her husband’s best works, The Story of Oil, is now enjoyed by thousands of people every day – many picking up a bottle of gin at the LCBO or some cheese at Longo’s – at 111 St. Clair Ave. W., the former Imperial Oil headquarters, now a Camrost Felcorp condominium called Imperial Plaza.