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Dwight Wilson, First World War Veteran Dies at Age 106.

May 9, 2007


The flags have been lowered to half-mast at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Canada’s largest veterans care facility to honour the passing of Percy “Dwight” Wilson, First World War veteran.

A resident of the veterans’ wing at Sunnybrook, Mr. Wilson passed away peacefully this morning at the age of 106.  His passing leaves one known surviving Canadian First World War veteran, Mr. John Babcock who lives in Spokane, Washington.

Mr. Wilson was born on February 26, 1901 in Vienna, Elgin County, Ontario. He was one of nine children.

In 1915, as a young Cadet he trained as a mounted bugler in the militia and in July of the following year, at age 15 (a full three years shy of the legal minimum) he enlisted and joined the 69th Artillery Battery in Toronto.
In 1916, following basic training in Camp Niagara and Camp Petawawa, Ontario, Dwight ventured overseas, as a bugle boy with the Toronto-based 69th Artillery Battery. On the two week voyage crossing the North Atlantic to England, he entertained the other troops on the R.M.S. Grampian liner with his wonderful singing voice. He was 1 of over 600,000 Canadians who fulfilled their sense of duty and volunteered to serve in the Great War.

Once there, his superiors realized he was too young and held him back from the front lines. He stayed for a short time with the 34th Battalion (a reserve unit), where his duties included digging trenches in Dover, England.

In January of 1917, he was sent back to Canada and discharged as a minor. Once back in Canada, and still determined Mr. Wilson re-enlisted in the 69th Battery but was discharged in Petawawa in 1918.

Two decades later when war broke out again in 1939, while working with Bell Telephone, Mr. Wilson became a Captain in Stratford’s 7th Perth Regiment Reserves.  He tried to serve once again only this time he was too old for active duty.
Dwight’s two younger brothers served in the Second World War. One served in the Canadian Army in Holland and the other brother went to England to serve as an air raid warden.

Mr. Wilson worked for Bell Canada from 1919 until his retirement in 1966. He held numerous positions in several Ontario communities, and was promoted to manager of the phone company’s Stratford operation. He also sang in the Bell vocal group.

Mr. Wilson always enjoyed singing. He enjoyed a career in music studying at the Royal Conservatory in Toronto and the University of Western Ontario and later performed as a concert baritone at Toronto’s Massey Hall, churches and other venues in Toronto. He also sang in an inaugural national radio broadcast when the Canadian radio network was being established.

It was at the Royal Conservatory that he met his wife Eleanor Dean, a singer and pianist. He and Eleanor were happily married in 1927 and remained together until her death at age 94. They had two sons Dean and Paul.   

He loved to sing for the nursing staff and fellow residents at Sunnybrook with his rich classical baritone voice. You could often find him down in Warrior’s Hall with the veterans singing and taking part in daily entertainment programs. A resident of the Kilgour wing at Sunnybrook, he also enjoyed music therapy classes, “bodies in motion” an exercise group, a trivia group called “mental aerobics”, and regular pet therapy visits.

Mr. Wilson has resided in the veterans’ residence of Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre since June of 2006.  Dwight had four grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

There will be a funeral service with military honour for family members and invited guests only. The family has requested that media respect their privacy as they do not wish to give any media interviews. They also ask that media do not attend the funeral.

In memory of Mr. Wilson and all those who served in the Great War, the family has requested that donations be directed to the Veterans’ Comfort Fund at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Room KGE39.

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