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Farewell to a Very Kind Soul
Edith Wilson, 1923-2004
By Laura McHale Holland
Dec. 25, 2004--a day of celebration for many--brought sadness to the Wilson family. Their matriarch, Edith, a native San Franciscan who had lived on Clipper Street in Noe Valley since 1971, passed away that morning. She was 81 years old.
"I believe she waited until we all got to the convalescent center before she passed on," says her granddaughter Robin Wilson. "My youngest son, Brandon, was the last to arrive. He climbed onto the bed and said, 'Merry Christmas, Grandma, I love you.' She took two more breaths and then she was gone. It's a blessing for her because she's not suffering anymore. For us, we just have to deal with it," Robin reflects.
Edith Wilson, née Edith O'Leary, was born on Jan. 17, 1923. She was the eldest of six children, five girls and one boy. Her family lived on Collingwood Street in what was then called Eureka Valley (now the Castro). Shortly after she graduated from Mission High School, she married Bruno Wilson, and they had one child, a daughter, Diane.
Family was the most important thing in Edith's life, and in her middle age she doted on her two grandchildren, Robin and Michael. Later in life, she played a major role in raising her great-grandsons Aaron, Erik, and Brandon, even after she was widowed several years ago. The boys are now 16, 12, and 8 years old, respectively. She had been Aaron's primary caregiver since he was 2 years old.
"She was there for me 100 percent. I've had my own twists and turns, but she was there for me the entire time, to the end," Robin recalls.
Edith's favorite activity was shopping on 24th Street. Her twinkling hazel eyes, stout figure, and salt-and-pepper hair were welcome sights to merchants and workers alike, especially at Bell Market, where she thrived on their jokes and friendly ribbing.
She also loved the St. Philip's Church annual parish festival, attending every year. Last year, her congestive heart failure had progressed to where she could not walk on her own. Teenaged volunteers with whom she'd played games since they were young children came knocking on her door. They escorted her to her last festival in her wheelchair.
"She was always willing to help and even befriended a couple of the homeless people in the neighborhood, giving them a dollar when she could spare it. She had a kind heart. That's what we'll remember her for," Robin concludes.