Friends remember art teacher

Chronicle Staff

By Ariane Lange

Carl Wilson was remembered as a gracious and wickedly witty man at his memorial service in the St. Saviour’s Chapel Feb. 2. Friends of the art teacher, who retired in 2006, crowded into the pews, and some were forced to stand in the back as there were not enough seats for all in attendance. 

After the audience filed in, Mark Hilt played a song on the electric organ. President Thomas C. Hudnut welcomed everyone and gave a remembrance of Wilson.

Saying that he had a song stuck in his head, Hudnut crooned, “To know, know, know him is to love, love, love him,” lyrics to a 1958 song.

“If you knew him, you loved him,” Hudnut said.

Wilson’s friend Howard Blair, whom he knew through the American Cut Glass Association, said he had tried vainly to get Wilson to sell him one of his paintings for years, and then Wilson gave it to him in exchange for getting his wife Pat to accept a position as vice president of the Cut Glass Association. His wife, Pat, introducing herself as the woman her husband took a bribe for, said, “Carl walked through our lives and he left a footprint on our heart.”

Linda DeVries, Wilson’s classmate at the University of Redlands, said that they had remained in close contact for 50 years. She described him as a man with an “irrepressible zest for living” and an “open embrace for life.”

“Carl in body is gone, but our remembrances of him do indeed ‘please the soul well,’” she said, tearing up.

Former Assistant Head of Upper School John West, now headmaster of Mirman School for Gifted Children, danced in the aisle to a Gustav Mahler symphony.

History teacher Eric Zwemer, who teamed up with Katherine Holmes-Chuba and Wilson to restructure the AP History of Art program started by Wilson, described Wilson as someone “who knew how to laugh wickedly.”

“His mind was forever young because, I think, he never stopped learning,” Zwemer said.

Zwemer described the grace with which Wilson accepted his and Holmes-Chuba’s contributions to the established art history program.

“He wanted to be a member of the team, not the captain,” Zwemer said.

Holmes-Chuba spoke of Wilson’s “joie de vivre.” She also appreciated Wilson’s welcome to the “newbies” in the art history program, saying that he taught her many things during that transition, including “graciousness when faced with a challenge” and appreciation for Wassily Kandinsky.

Hudnut summed up Wilson’s life in a verbal slideshow, talking about “snapshots” of him as a teacher, a friend, a party animal, a letter-writer and a luncheon companion.

“I got quite a few [letters from Wilson], and they were all in wild colors,” he said. “A note from Wilson was its own Dr. Seuss book.”

“Abundantly cheerful would be an apt way to characterize Carl,” Hudnut said.

Hudnut read tributes from one of Wilson’s closest friends and from his partner of 24 years, Dan Gumbleton.

Bishop Tom Gumbleton, Dan Gumbleton’s brother and a pacifist known for liberal views on addressing homosexuality in the Catholic Church, spoke of the deep love shared by Wilson and his brother and the presence of God in the room.

“You can’t be here without knowing that we’re in the presence of love, therefore in the presence of God,” he said.

He described Wilson as a person who “exuded” love.

School chaplain Father J. Young gave the benediction. A reception was held in Feldman-Horn Gallery, where, coincidentally, the work of Tom Stone ’89, a former student of Wilson’s, hung.