Teacher was €˜abundantly cheerful

Chronicle Staff


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 after 36 years at the school, crowded into the pews, and some were forced to stand in the back as there were not enough seats for all in attendance.

Wilson died Jan. 14 of cancer at his Pasadena home.

President Thomas C. Hudnut welcomed everyone to the memorial service 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 in vain 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.

Pat Blair, introducing herself as the woman her husband took a bribe for, said, “Carl walked through our lives and he left a footprint on our hearts.”

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.

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 works of Tom Stone ’89, a former student of Wilson’s, hung.

Wilson was hired by Harvard headmaster Chris Berrisford in 1970 to start an art program at the then-military school.

He told people that when he arrived, there wasn’t a crayon to be found. Along with Karl Kleinz, he initiated an AP History of Art course at Harvard that Hudnut described as “legendary.”

“It was considered both a rite of passage and a badge of honor by the students,” Hudnut said.

“He loved the teaching of art and the art of teaching.”

Wilson already had some experience in founding art programs.

When he accepted a teaching post at a school in Iran, he thought he would be teaching English as a second language.

However, Wilson had a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from the University of Redlands, and the headmaster of the Iranian school asked him to start an art department instead.

He grew up in Garden Grove, Calif., but he was a man with a highly international background.

Wilson served in the Peace Corps as an elementary school teacher in the Philippines and worked in England before he moved to Iran.

Art teacher John Luebtow worked with Wilson for 36 years and loved Wilson like a brother, he said.
“[He had a] love of sharing everything he possessed in his mind with everyone who crossed his path,” Luebtow said.

Wilson earned a master’s degree in theology from Union Theological Seminary in 1966.
When he retired, Wilson told a Chronicle reporter, “I have an absolute screaming passion for art history. It is the most exciting subject I can think about because you get so much of the human mind and the human soul and the love and the hate and the agony. It’s just right there in front of you.”

“Some people just have laughter always around them and about them, and he was one of those people,” Hudnut said.

“Nothing missed Carl and Carl never let anything miss him,” Luebtow said.