Williamson’s wit and wisdom missed

February 9, 2016

Arvid Chalmers died about a week and a half ago doing, as his ex-wife Kerry Chalmers was quoted as saying, “what he loved”. The Salt Spring Island, BC thespian died of a heart attack while acting in a play in Mexico where he spent his winters for many years.

I, like most people who live or have lived on Salt Spring, had the opportunity to laugh much more often than I would have otherwise if Arvid Chalmers had not been in this world.

He was a talented, sharp witted man whether performing on stage, to audiences at the crowded outdoor Saturday Market, officiating at numerous auctions for the many causes that he supported or just hanging out at Barb’s Buns. Although it seems he made nice pots of money as a realtor, someone very close to him, who loved him very much, once told me she believed The Universe would have preferred that he drop the house-selling gig and act on a fulltime basis.

I find it is interesting how the mind — or at least my mind works– when one hears of someone’s death. I saw Arvid in the afterlife and immediately I thought about someone who I had not remembered for a long, long time.

Mary Williamson.

Arvid did the eulogy on Mary Williamson at her memorial in 2000. I interviewed him about her in the article I wrote about her life and death. In fact, I think more than once I interviewed Arvid on the subject of someone passing. He knew tons of people and had many fans.

I know it is laughable to the point of corniness for me to think that these two thespians, who treaded the boards together on occasion and were fans of each other, have now been reunited in the afterlife but my belief allows for spirits to connect after they leave their bodies. It is called Spiritualism and it is a faith with many followers.

Here is the article about Mary Williamson with many quotes from Arvid Chalmers:

Gulf Islands Driftwood

Wednesday, March 29, 2000

Williamson’s wit and wisdom missed

by Tanya Lester

Mary Williamson, who died on March 23 at 6:20 p.m., made numerous contributions to Salt Spring’s community as an actor, feminist and social activist.

The thread that ran through much of what she did was her wonderfully intelligent wit.

As pointed out by Janice McClean, who was on the International Women’s Day (IWD) committee that honoured her among 20 Salt Spring women in early March, Williamson was well known for the kind of humour that made people reflect on an issue after the laughter had subsided.

“The content of the things that she said was poking fun at male stereotypes,” said McClean, remembering Williamson’s performance at an IWD event at Alfresco’s in 1994. “It was done in a way that was not offensive but people would think about it afterwards.”

In light of how Williamson melded her humour, feminism and spirituality, it seems appropriate that during one of her last performances, in the Christmas singalong at ArtSpring, she took a swipe at some of the most hallowed men featured in the Christmas story.

“If the Three Wise Men were women they would have been on time because they would have stopped and asked for directions,” she was quoted as saying in the Driftwood.

Williamson’ theatrical humour was very original, focussed and resourceful, according to Maggie Schubart, who worked with her on several social-responsibility campaigns including those concerning disarmament, the Multilateral Agreement on Investment and the World Trade Organization.

Schubart said Williamson was always capable of getting quickly to the point on any issue of concern to her. She was astute in her criticism and not one to shy away from taking a stance.

Laurie Clarke has many “beautiful memories” of Williamson, particularly when they were both backstage during Salt Spring Hysterical Society performances.

As they put on their stage make-up together, Clarke said Williamson would often talk about politics and social issues with great indignance and humour.

There was always a radiance about Williamson on stage and her timing was superb, said Clarke.

The audience would respond to her stand-up comedy with a crescendo of impromptu applause.

“She will be deeply missed,” said Clarke. “It’s a profound loss. She was a great woman and she’s a tough act to follow.”

Clarke remembers Mary Williamson’s husband, Harry Williamson, would drive her to the theatre before the play and carry her wild selection of costumes up to the back of the stage. Then, he would go sit in the audience to watch.

This was part of how the couple shared everything together, including their love for literature and travel, said Clarke.

Williamson was involved with the Hysterical Society almost from its beginning 13 years ago. That is where Arvid Chalmers got to know her.

“Working with her was a joy,” said Chalmers, who dibbed their friendship as one of “mutual fans.”

“We generally got angry at each other but we were the best of friends.”

Last spring, Williams and Chalmers acted the two parts in a play called Vigil. Williams said afterwards, that the play appealed to her because it only had five lines in it which fit nicely with her aversion to memorizing lines.

Both, however, did a superb job interpreting their characters. “That was a wonderful experience,” said Chalmers. “It was a great process.”

In the play, Chalmers’ character told the one played by Williamson that he would plant an amaryllis in the earth on her grave.

Chalmers went on to say his own amaryllis bloomed this spring just around the time that Williamson became ill.

The flower died during the past week.

“Her death is going to leave a big whole in my life and everyone’s,” said Chalmers.

Mary Williamson died peacefully in her sleep with her family around her. She is survived by her husband Harry, son Timothy, daughter Megan, granddaughter Cheyenne and her adopted sister Vi Swift.

A memorial service will be held in honour of Mary Williamson at the Salt Spring United Church on April 4 at 2 p.m.

A tribute in celebration of Williamson’s life is being organized by the Hysterical Society with the date and other details still to be announced.

In lieu of flowers, donations to a charity of your choice can be made in Williamson’s name.


You read other posts on this blog at tealeaf56.wordpress.com and at writingsmall.wordpress.com

Tanya’s books are Confessions of a Tea Leaf Reader (which can be purchased from the author or at amazon.com), Friends I Never Knew, Dreams and Tricksters and Women Rights/Writes. All four books can be found in some libraries and the last three are available at the Legislative Library of Manitoba.

Tanya Lester is an intuitive reader, a house sitter, a reiki master, a writer and an art model. To access her services go to her website at teareading.wordpress.com or to her pages at Facebook, Google, LinkedIn and Twitter. Or contact her directly at tealeaf.56@gmail.com or call at 250-538-0086.


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