Jean Lenore Wilson was a reader, an editor, a friend, a partner, and beloved to many. Born in Foremost, Alberta, in 1945 to Marian Macdonald and John Laught Wilson, an RCMP constable, Jean attended school in Edmonton and then studied English and French literature at the University of Alberta. A course with Eli Mandel encouraged an interest in Canadian Literature and led to a master’s degree at the University of Saskatchewan with a thesis on the poetry of Al Purdy.
Jean’s career in Canadian scholarly publishing spanned three university presses and hundreds of books. In 1968, the legendary Francess Halpenny hired her as a trainee copy editor at the University of Toronto Press where she worked until 1976. She took pride in having been the youngest person ever to join that celebrated editorial department. Yearning for greater freedom, she spent twelve years freelancing and living in feminist and lesbian cultural communities in Toronto and Vancouver and on Galiano Island, where she lugged huge packages of proofs to and from the rural post office. Jean moved to Vancouver to live with Carmel Chambers who was her partner for twenty-three years until her death in 2009.
In 1988 Jean joined UBC Press where she began acquiring new titles, many of which won awards. As senior editor and associate director, Jean drew on her exceptional people skills and connections in the scholarly community. She played a key role in rebuilding the Press’s reputation, while earning personal recognition as a scholar of western Canadian history. She will be remembered for building UBC Press’s renowned list in Indigenous studies and establishing the Press’s groundbreaking Sexuality Studies series.
Jean’s contribution to Canadian publishing and cultural life was profound. She was a founding member of the Editors’ Association of Canada, an adjunct professor at Simon Fraser University, and president of the Association of Book Publishers of British Columbia. Long a feminist activist, Jean helped launch the Broadside newspaper and the journal Room of One’s Own, and for many years was the review editor for BC Studies and a member of its editorial board.
After retiring from UBC Press in 2008, Jean took a part-time role as editor and consultant at the University of Manitoba Press. She loved working on new projects in her studio overlooking Cordova Channel near Sidney in the home she shared with her long-time friend Jane Ogle Hastings.
Jane and Jean were married in a joyous Quaker celebration on April 27, 2013, but, on December 8, Jean suffered a devastating hemiplegic stroke that left her unable to talk, write, or otherwise communicate in words. With Jane’s unwavering support and through her own herculean efforts, Jean relearned how to walk and to cope with the frustration of thoughts that could never be spoken. Her intellect was undiminished, and she continued to read voraciously, attend concerts and lectures, and live in a home filled with books, music, laughter, and friends – also graced by a cat named Jesse.
After a decade of struggling to overcome the impact of the stroke and then several months of losing ground due to illness and recurring hospitalizations, Jean held hard to the promise that she could, through MAiD, take control of her own destiny. With the loving support of Jane, Jean took her leave on February 6, 2022.
Predeceased by her parents and former partner Carmel Chambers, Jean leaves her spouse Jane Ogle Hastings, her brother Doug Wilson (Christine Lisicin), and nephew Nicholas. She also leaves Carmel’s daughter Mimi Chambers (Eddie White) of Vancouver, son Karl (Sandy) Chambers, and grandchildren Blake and Paige White and Charlotte and Brooke Chambers.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation in Jean’s memory to organizations supporting music or working for the environment.
Berit Kraus: Scholarly Communicator April 14, 1942 – November 3, 2003
Much is made of the premise that scholarly communication is the driving force behind scholarly books and journals, but in this editorially-driven environment, the engine of that communication process, the marketing of scholarly books, is usually given short shrift and takes a back seat to the editorial role. Without effective marketing it is impossible to communicate the ideas contained in the books we publish.
For twenty of UBC Press' thirty-two years, one of its most important resources was the intellectual and emotional commitment of Berit Kraus to promoting its books. Her devotion to the scholarly works that the Press published was exceptional, and her loyalty to the Press and its authors has been unwavering.
Like our books, Berit's catalogues were meticulously crafted: each page an expression of extraordinary integrity. She never let her standards slip towards even a hint of hyperbole. There was never a misplaced ISBN or a wrong initial in an author's name, and every word was carefully considered and the product of a careful reading of the manuscript and the reviewers' notes.
Berit was not without contradictions. On one hand, she was the picture of Scandinavian precision and order, a baker of perfect delicate little delights and a disciplined runner. But even in a world of publishers and academics, where offices are routinely strewn with papers and books, her office was a monument to chaos. There should have been avalanche warnings at the entrance.
Generous to a fault, Berit was always willing to give a colleague the benefit of the doubt or a second chance. Most importantly she was a devoted wife to Alan, a mother to Kajsa and Per, and grandmother to Nathalie, Stella, and Linnea. And a very brave woman. All of us at the Press shared a little bit of her pain as she struggled against the scourge of brain cancer that so suddenly assailed her in the summer of 2000. We marveled at her resilience and shared the joy of her recovery as twice she fought back and seemed to triumph. Losing her has been a great blow to all of us.
Berit was an important pioneer of scholarly publishing in western Canada. She was also the dearly loved matriarch of our little family of authors and publishers. We miss her terribly.
Vesla Hailey (1943-2007) worked at UBC Press from 2000 until her retirement from UBC in 2003. She was a conscientious and efficient secretary to the Director, and a warm and wonderful colleague to all at the Press.
Vesla was born in Oban, Scotland, where her father, a captain in the Royal Norwegian Air force, was stationed. After his death near the end of World War 2, Vesla and her mother returned to Oslo; when Vesla was 8 they moved to Canada, and stayed. Apart from a period in California, Vesla lived in Vancouver until her untimely death from Hodgkin's lymphoma. She is survived by her husband, Al, and her children Eric and Marika, stepchildren Alfred and Marina, and other relatives in Canada, Norway, and Sweden.
We are saddened to note the sudden death of our friend and author Nancy Waxler-Morrison., Associate Professor, Emerita, in the School of Social Work and the Department of Anthropology and Sociology at the University of British Columbia. Nancy was co-editor of Cross Cultural Caring: A Handbook for Health Professionals published by UBC Press in 2006.
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