Elizabeth Rose Wilken


It is with sadness that we announce the sudden passing of Elizabeth Rose Wilken, (Aunty Liz) 75, of Chatham, Ontario, on Monday, November 11th, 2019.

Elizabeth was born in Salisbury, Rhodesia, on October 1, 1944 to the late Isabel and Leonard Kirby. She will be missed greatly by her husband Ronald and daughters; Deborah Ann Nedelcu (Stefan Radu), and Jacquie Davison (Ken). She will also be missed by her grandchildren Stefani, Ecatarina, Danciu and Petre Nedelcu (Alexandra) and Christine, Eric and Chantal Davison and her great grandchildren, Roman and the late Luca Nedelcu. Elizabeth is also survived by her loving sister and brother-in-law, Dorothy and Dave McCaughan.

There will be a time for visitation from 11:30am to 12:30pm followed by a memorial service at 1:00pm on Monday, November 18th at The Salvation Army Citadel (46 Orangewood Blvd, Chatham, Ontario). A reception will be held after the service. Please wear a splash of green in Elizabeth’s honour to the service. 

If you wish to make a donation in her memory, please consider the Canadian Cancer Society or Chatham Kent Children’s Services. Online condolences may be left at www.LifeTransitions.ca.

How do you say goodbye; to a friend of 60 plus years, A wife and lover of over 55 years, a mother to two wonderful daughters, a grandmother of four grandsons, three granddaughters and a great grand mother to two great grandsons; a home maker, caregiver, needlewoman and seamstress, business proprietor and daycare “Aunty Liz” to dozens of young Londoners, volunteer driver of dozens of Chatham Children Services kids who used up five cars and did over 750,000 Kms in twenty years of driving them.

The answer is you don’t.

Elizabeth and I met in 1958 at the Rennie high schools in Lusaka, Zambia, at Sunday bible school where I sat behind her and tied knots in her “bum” length hair. She cursed me every Sunday night when she had to comb and brush them out.

We met again in 1963 when I was in Post Office Telecommunications College in Salisbury, Rhodesia and she was training as a nurse at Salisbury General Hospital. I was in a café drinking coffee and watching TV when in walked this tall, willowy blonde whom I recognised instantly. We started dating shortly thereafter and married in 1964.

We made a home in Kitwe, Zambia where Debbie and Jackie were born, changing houses twice. When education needs dictated we emigrated, for the first time, to Salisbury, Rhodesia, built a house and made our home at “Tawsby” as Jackie called it. A transfer to Gwelo necessitated building another house and once again we moved lock, stock and barrel to Gwelo. A few years later a second transfer back to Salisbury saw us back at “Tawsby”. 

In 1978/9 the political situation in Rhodesia became untenable and her parents had now retired to London, Canada. Debbie and Jackie went on their own, via Johannesburg and New York to join their grandparents in London before New Year 1978/9. Liz and I followed in May arriving on 24th May 1979. I started work with Blackburn radio in June and she set about setting up a temporary home in a Westmount town house. By January she had started doing daycare in the home.

Then in 1980 came the purchase of our first Canadian home, a semi in Whitehills and the day care followed. In 1990 we purchased a house down the block and the day care followed. This was to be our forever home. 

Blackburn had other ideas and in 1995 transferred me to Chatham. I “lived” at the “Wheels”, four nights a week for six months while we tried to sell our house in London and buy one of the FOURTY THREE houses we looked at in Chatham. We’re not picky. We finally moved in August 1995 on the hottest day of the year and we’ve been here ever since. We’re still newcomers after 24 years.

Tired of other people’s babies Liz tried a sewing school but that fizzled for various reasons so she took up driving as a volunteer for CKCS. She covered as far as Whitby, Goderich and Windsor and almost every place in between in her twenty years, some months driving over 6000 Kms. Just for CKCS.

Two bad falls within a year, the second one resulting in a broken leg which laid her up for three months left her un willing to continue the pace she was at. So she retired from driving. 

Not needlework. Having been one of the founding members of Tulip Tree Needle arts in Ridgetown/Chatham she continued to learn new/old ways of doing needlework some of which is on display here today. In the hospital she told the doctors she had to come home so she could finish the three or four quilts she had undertaken to make before Christmas.

In 2000 I had a serious accident which found us spending inordinate amounts of time in doctors waiting rooms. She always carried a knitting project. Socks, Mitts, Cardigans and sweaters, baby blankets and comforters flowed off her needles at an incredible rate as McDonald house and the Salvation army men’s mission will attest to. Her sewing table is plied with UFP’s as the TT ladies call them. I hope someone will finish them.

To sum it up, I, The family and the community have lost, in my mind, a very special, caring and giving lady in Elizabeth.

So to my original question, how do you say goodbye. The answer friends is with very great difficulty, lots of tears and anguish and I guess, just time.        Goodbye my love!

A Tribute to Liz

Liz and I and several other ladies are members of Tulip Tree Needlearts Guild.  Tulip Tree Needlearts Guild is all about embroidery, needlepoint or stitching, as we like to call it, and, of course, socializing.  We share a passion with like-minded people every Tuesday. A quote by Mary Kurtz sums it up for us – The only place where housework comes before needlework is in the dictionary!

Tulip Tree was Liz’s stitching family.  As you are probably aware, women are able to do two or more things at the same time, and members of our group are able to not only stitch, but also discuss the problems of the world, share family stories, help each other learn new techniques and only occasionally have to remove a stitch put in the wrong place….a term known as “frogging” (rip it, rip it, rip it).  Liz, as did the rest of us, shared her stories of life in Africa, coming to Canada and family. Liz’s family became our family just as ours became hers. Jacquie came on a stitching retreat with Tulip Tree; Debbie joined us at Tuesday stitch-ins whenever she came to visit. Liz was very proud of her and Ron’s children and grandchildren, sharing news of graduations, weddings, births and other special events.

Ron was very supportive of Liz’s needlework passion; understanding from his carpentry work that the best tools are needed for the best results and so would encourage Liz to purchase those necessary items (scissors, sewing machine, threads, fabric).  A favourite story of mine is of Ron helping Liz pick out her first canvas work design to learn this new needlework technique. It is a beautiful pattern. It was also an advanced needlework pattern, with many unique difficult stitches and expensive threads.  Talk about jumping in with both feet! Liz, the beginner stitcher, was challenged, (she also hid the bill) however she persevered and that beautiful piece of canvas work is displayed in their living room for all to see. From then on, nothing held Liz back in learning new techniques.  Tulip Tree members have travelled together on many road trips to classes, seminars, exhibitions and shopping excursions for inspiration and building up our respective stashes (supplies, whether it be threads, fabric, books, yarn). We were tasked once to write a list of books we would be willing to share with other members.  I received a very brief phone call…”did you know I have 42 books on needlepoint? Too many to write out”. End of conversation! I followed in Liz’s footsteps and decided I wasn’t going to write out my list either and I only had 41. Happy to lend, but come to the house to look and borrow.  

When Liz went on a drive for Children’s Aid Society which might involve a trip to London, she would let us know in advance and generously offer to pick up a much needed thread or piece of fabric.  I think it was a welcome excuse for Liz to attend the store to browse for patterns or threads she might also need. This was a welcome service for the guild saving members from putting their project aside until they could go in person or order by mail.

Liz taught Tulip Tree members to prepare early, with embroidered Christmas cards and gifts started in early January.  Liz would plan ahead finding the perfect design for a daughter, grandchild or other family member to give as a gift. Sometimes the project took longer to stitch than anticipated; however, each stitch was taken in love and thoughts of that person.  A truly cherish able piece. While I do plan somewhat ahead, I did not have a Christmas stocking made for our new grandson who was born this past September even though I had NINE months to do so. Liz quickly amended that poor planning on my part by taking a Christmas Stocking kit from her stash to give to me.  When I mentioned I didn’t have time to sew all those tiny pieces and beads and sequins as I was going to help with the baby, Liz spent a week in September stitching all but the name, so that the poor little baby will have a stocking for his first Christmas.

Liz encouraged Tulip Tree in our charitable work with community projects.  Many needlework pieces have been donated on behalf of Tulip Tree because of Liz’s sense of giving back.  She was such a giving person.

Our passion brought us together and a wonderful friendship developed between Liz, I and Tulip Tree members.  Any day spent sewing, stitching or knitting is a good day. It has been said sewing, or in this case any type of needlework, mends the soul.  We will need to do a lot of stitching during the next few months to help with the mending. Thank you Liz for sharing this passion. We will miss you.

By Mary Robertson.





12 Comments on “Elizabeth Rose Wilken”

  1. We are so very sorry Ron, of the loss of Liz. She is truly one of a kind. Our deepest sympathies to you and your family at this very difficult time.
    George and Deb Brooks

  2. Dear Ron
    I was deeply saddened when I read of Liz’s passing this morning in the LFP. I can only imagine your sorrow.
    Ron, you said it all in the beautiful letter you wrote in her memory. Liz was a giving, loving, and such a kind person, always had time for everyone. She was a friend. She was a devoted Volunteer Driver and loved by many at the Chatham Kent Children’s Services.
    I have saved, and will forever cherish every Christmas card she embroidered and mailed.
    Please know our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family during this difficult time.

  3. Ron, I am so very sorry for your great loss. You have indeed written a beautiful tribute to Liz. She will be greatly missed. I knew Liz through Tulip Tree, and she was a valued member of the group. Her passing will leave a great gap.

  4. Deeply saddened and sorry to hear about Liz’s passing. Ron, we continue to have you and your family in our thoughts and prayers. Please accept our deepest sympathies during this extremely difficult time.

  5. Ron, Debbie, Jackie,

    Out hearts are with you in this time of sorrow. There are no words. We can take some solace in the fact that we had the pleasure of knowing Liz and we can remember her and pass on those memories.

    Out thoughts and prayers are with you all.

  6. Dear Ron, Debbie, Jackie, family members and friends,

    On behalf of all members past and present of Tulip Tree Needlearts ,I’d like to offer sincere condolences to all concerned. Liz would’ve loved that heartwarming tribute Ron. You have expressed your thoughts and feelings exquisitely. It’s also good to know the timelines of your lives together over the years, of which Liz has spoken lovingly.
    We will miss her at our meetings and stitch-in’s. She was a true artist. Your encouragement of her interest in needlework was a source of pride for her, and each of us involved in her work. We always looked forward to her Christmas gifts of embroidery each year. The ones we have will be treasured all the more for her passing.

  7. Dear Ron:
    I am so sorry to hear of Liz’s passing.
    I am a worker at CKCS and talked with Liz often when she was a volunteer driver.
    She was a great and talented Lady!
    Many children have enjoyed her beautiful needle work.
    You have written a beautiful tribute to her.
    My sincere sympathy goes out to you and your family at this difficult time.

  8. Ron, Debbie, Jackie and family,
    Thank you for the opportunity to read your tribute to a loving wife, mother and grandmother. Elizabeth has touched the lives of so many. You will know that we knew and respected her parents and the family for many years and wish to add our assurance of love and prayers at this time of sorrow. May God’s love and peace surround you all as you celebrate a wonderful life.

  9. Ron I am so sorry to hear of the loss of Liz…Thinking of you at this Time…Hugs..Dawna Dulong (Grumpy).

  10. What a lovely tribute and interesting story you have shared. We are very sorry for your loss. Wishing you the best at this very difficult time. Cathy Williams (friend of Jacquie’s)

  11. Ron, I am so sorry to hear about Liz. Beautiful tribute.. All the best at this difficult time. Candy Corbin

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