Wilhelmina "Willi" Wildman
Wilhelmina Josefina Bakker Klein Wildman (Willi)
Beloved Wife of Edward, Mother of Mia and Roger, Grandmother of
Jaydon, a loyal friend to many.
Willi, as she preferred to be called, died at Campbell House in Collingwood, on March 29th, 2022. She was born in Amsterdam, in the midst of the Second World War, on May 22nd, 1942. Willi was the older sister to brothers Bill and Gerald, who predeceased her.
Willi had an adventurous spirit, and an unquenchable zest for life. She was gregarious, sociable, personable, generous, and hospitable to a fault. She worked hard all her life. People in her large circle of friends loved to be around her—she had a great sense of humour. A voracious reader, Willi could hold forth at length on a wide range of subjects, her discourse punctuated by wry and witty observations on human nature and the state of the world. She loved good food and champagne, and was a consummate cook, with always a fragrant soup on the stove for her art students. Willi would dress with flair and style, often sporting striking pieces of gemstone jewelry. She excelled at Internet word games in Dutch with her relatives in the Netherlands and for years she played pool with her husband Edward at precisely four o’clock every afternoon. Willi will be deeply missed by family, and all those whose lives she brightened with her irresistible charm.
In the early 1950s, Willi’s family, the Bakkers, immigrated to Canada from the Netherlands, and settled in Winnipeg, Manitoba, with others in the postwar diaspora. Willi attended St. Mary’s Academy in Winnipeg where she learned English and developed her love of music, art, and philosophy.
As a young woman, Willi came to Ontario with her two children and first husband Roger Klein Sr. She enjoyed the outdoors and was captivated by the drama of Ouimet Canyon and Kakabeka Falls near Thunder Bay, the Canadian Shield, and the limestone bluffs of the Niagara Escarpment. She studied visual arts at the University of Ottawa before launching into her second chapter working as a photo-journalist, documenting miners deep within Sudbury’s nickel mines.
In the late 1970s, Willi moved to Belize where she met her second husband, Edward Wildman, and honed her skills as a painter. Her work there included a commissioned mural and paintings of Mayan and Belizean history, archeological excavations, jungle, and maritime scenes.
Willi moved to Southern Georgian Bay, where she was actively engaged in the visual arts community over the years, including the Blue Mountain Foundation for the Arts, The Art Group of Collingwood, The Georgian Bay Arts and Crafts Association, and the BMFA Juried Photo Show. She was involved in establishing artist co-ops, hiring art teachers, and eventually became an art teacher herself. Willi’s goal was to provide ongoing, affordable art instruction, as well as to secure venues for shows and sales. When the L.E. Shore Memorial Library opened in Thornbury, Willi fell in love with its gallery and remained its devoted servant for twenty years.
Thornbury also became the home of her personal studio where students and fellow artists would gather three days a week in a relaxed and welcoming environment.
Willi was a notable painter in her own right. Her love of nature inspired hundreds of paintings of the natural beauty of the Southern Georgian Bay area, and over the years she enjoyed considerable demand for them.
Willi encouraged others to embrace the art experience and loved to see people grow and open a happy chapter in their lives. She said “You will be revealed to yourself. The world is fresh and new again as seen through the artist’s eyes.” Willi’s advice to artists: “Don’t procrastinate. That means get into the same room with the paints and brushes—no excuses.”
A private commemoration is planned. A donation to the Hospice Georgian Triangle Foundation for Campbell House would be appreciated.