Mary Wilkinson passed away peacefully at The Wenleigh Long Term Care on Sunday, October 8, 2023.
Mary was born in Erindale on Father’s Day, June 16, 1940, the youngest of four daughters born to Marjorie and Delmar Barker. The family included her older sisters Elizabeth (Betty), Ruth, and Grace. Her father, Delmar, passed away in 1944 when Mary was four years old. Mary spent much of her childhood living nearby on the Adamson farm (now Erindale Secondary School) with her grandparents Sarah and Charles Adamson. She fondly recalled having a “pet cow” and many other pets, sparking a lifelong love of animals.
Mary attended primary school in an overflow classroom at the Erindale Community Hall, and in Grade 2 she attended S.S. #4 Erindale Public School on Mississauga Road. For High School, she went to T.L. Kennedy Secondary School in Cooksville. In 1961, at age 21, she traveled to Fort Chimo (renamed Kuujjuaq in 1980) in the Eastern Arctic to help relocate St. Stephen’s Anglican Church.
Returning home to Erindale, she attended Lakeshore Teacher’s College in New Toronto, obtaining her teaching certificate in 1962. Seeking more adventure and having a love for the far north, she began her teaching career in Northern Ontario. She served as both a teacher and a community nurse, and she also learned elements of both the Cree and Ojibwa languages. While in Northern Ontario she developed a deep appreciation for Indigenous cultures and languages. She was given an Indigenous name which she understood to mean “Proud bird beautiful when you fly.”
Mary returned south to Hamilton in 1966 where she enrolled at the Hamilton and District School of Nursing. On August 19, 1967, she married Thomas Edward John Wilkinson of Wingham, at St. Peter’s Anglican Church, Erindale and they purchased a historic house in Erindale Village the same year. Mary would live at this house on Mindemoya Road from 1967 until 2014. She graduated from nursing school and began her nursing career in 1968 at Mississauga General Hospital, but chose to resume her teaching career in 1970, joining the Dufferin-Peel Catholic School Board. She later attended the University of Toronto, graduating in 1988 with her B.A. in Religion and History – achieving High Distinction and being on the Dean’s Honour List – all while continuing to balance her teaching career and her family. Mary taught primary school in Mississauga for 32 years. The schools where she taught include St. Gerard, St. Christopher, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Jerome and St. Timothy.
Mary and Tom adopted two Indigenous children, Laurel Louise Iona (Simard) and David William Joseph (Simard), and later had three biological children, Matthew Norman Charles, John Delmar Thomas, and stillborn daughter Marita. Mary and Tom separated in 1990. Mary was a devoted mother, and always encouraged her children to follow their dreams, work hard, seek higher education, and always made sure that they had the best Halloween costumes!
Mary had a life-long interest in history, genealogy, gardening, reading, writing, painting, quilting, making ceramic dolls, Irish music, her beloved Erindale Village, and her dogs – notably Sam, Samantha, Jody, and Mindy.
After retiring from teaching in 2002, Mary found a love of travel, genealogy, and volunteering. Over the years she traveled to Scotland, Bermuda, Israel, and Ireland, not to mention all across Canada. She volunteered with the Bradley House Museum, Heritage Mississauga, the Thompson Adamson Bell Tower Museum at St. Peter’s Anglican Church, and with the St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog Program – where she would take her dogs Jody and Mindy for visits with seniors at local long term care homes. She was also a member of the Mississauga South Historical Society and the Halton-Peel Branch of Ontario Ancestors (formerly the Ontario Genealogical Society). She helped to organize and coordinate the Erindale Public School reunion in 2005, and she was the recipient of the Heritage Award from Heritage Mississauga in 2006.
In her later years, a decline in health ultimately led to Mary leaving her beloved Erindale Village. As she struggled with dementia, she resided at VIVA Mississauga, Sunrise Erin Mills, Chartwell Heritage Glen, and The Wenleigh Long Term Care Residence, where she lived in the Erindale Home Area.
Mary is fondly remembered by her sons, Matthew (Amy) and John (Tracy), grandchildren Abby, Lilly, Charlotte and Carter, and by her extended family of many nieces, nephews, godchildren, cousins near and far, friends, countless former students, and by those she met during a lifetime spent engaged in giving back to her community – including her lifelong friends, Eva and Claire, with whom she shared many adventures, hobbies, and innumerable scrabble games.
Please join us for a visitation at the Turner & Porter Funeral Home, Neweduk-Erin Mills Chapel (1981 Dundas Street West, Mississauga) on Thursday, October 19, from 5 pm to 8 pm. A private family committal service will take place later at St. Peter’s Anglican Cemetery.
Thank you to all of those who aided and cared for Mary over the last decade.
In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to the St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog Program: