When Marian Wilson’s son Mike was killed by a drunk driver at the age of 16, she and her husband John decided to take to the sea. In 1984, the couple set sail for nearly two decades.

Marian loved fiercely, which is what made her and her husband best mates on the water.

“I don’t think that there are many couples who could live on a 12-metre sailboat for 17 years,” her son Ian Wilson says.

They travelled through the Great Lakes, along the Intracoastal Waterway, to Bermuda, and from the Caribbean all the way to South America. John was the captain, and she was the social convenor. Marian was quick to make friends wherever she went, as she was a great storyteller.

Died on April 11, 2020
Toronto, ON
Age 77

“Mom loved telling long and detailed stories—often exaggerated! She would often laugh so hard at her own stories that she’d have trouble finishing them,” Ian says.

The couple passed their passion for travelling on to their three remaining children, who now live outside of Canada. But no matter the distance, the sailors were quick to pack up to come and visit or send letters from wherever they docked.

Marian loved her six grandkids dearly, and the Wilsons rented an apartment in London, England from 2001 to 2009, to be closer to their family there. They eventually made their way back to Canada and John, a professor at the University of Waterloo, died in 2010. Marian was also a part of a gourmet food club with her friends. She was young and fun-loving at heart. Ian remembers being fed chocolate cake for breakfast on occasion.

“She had the gift of knowing how to make everyone feel that they were someone special,” he says.

This story was first published in MacLean’s as part of a collaborative project with Canadian journalism schools to document the lives of people who have died from COVID-19. To learn more about the project and to read the other obituaries, click here.

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