Obituary of Wallace Edwards
Edwards, Wallace Strachan
September 20, 1957 - December 25, 2022
Beloved children’s book illustrator whose vivid imagination transformed the world of animals and strange creatures for a generation of children. His family is heartbroken yet grateful for the magic and laughter he brought to our lives.
He leaves behind his beloved partner of twenty-five years, the love of his life, Kate Freeman.
Born in Ottawa, Ontario, Wally attended high school at Lisgar Collegiate Institute and was a graduate of the Ontario College of Art (now OCADU), Toronto. He lived in Yarker, Ontario. Winner of the Governor-General’s award for his first book, Alphabeasts, he went on to write and illustrate 16 more books, winning many national and international awards. His most recent book, Do you Wonder? was published this year by Scholastic. After receiving a diagnosis of terminal cancer in August, he completed work on his final book, Pigs Can’t Fly, currently in press.
Wally’s paintings can be found in private and public collections throughout the world. Prior to his book life he had an extensive freelance career with the Metro Toronto Zoo, the City of Toronto, the B.C. Ministry of the Environment, the Canadian Children’s Book Centre, the Canadian Wildlife Federation, and many magazines, including a long stretch with Ontario Out of Doors.
In 2014, Wally was awarded a Canada Council-supported New Media Artist Residency at York University. He went on to create and exhibit work in augmented and virtual reality internationally and was a pioneering force in the development of visual language and techniques for future forms. He was also just beginning to create large-scale paintings in acrylic, signalling the next phase in his artistic journey, and it’s a profound loss that only a handful of these works will ever exist.
Wally’s creativity was nurtured by a life full of fun and friendship and love; fishing on Sharbot Lake, playing butler to his dog Lucy, countless hours of audiobooks he listened to while he worked, sharing his work in person with thousands of children over the years in classrooms and festivals, and being attentive to the strange and wonderful delights embedded in the everyday. He was a lover of the natural world, a keeper of obscure knowledge, a fan of wordplay, a surprisingly accomplished magician, a sparkling conversationalist, a mean guitar player, a compassionate and wise spirit and the funniest guy at the dinner table. His friends and family knew he loved them.
Predeceased by parents Margaret Edwards de Jourdan and James Edwards and sister Jane Fisher, he is survived and loved eternally by siblings Edmond, Campbell, Marnie (Robert Gardiner) and sister-in-law Darlene Dudar, his niece Caitlin (who was like a little sister to him) and her wife Jodi Fisher, niece Elizabeth Sleen (Darren), and nephew David Edwards (Paulette). Loved and missed by great nieces and nephews Harriet and Stella Fisher, Melisa Harry (Omarre), Mitchell Wright, Gordon, George and Leonie Sleen, and by great-grand nieces and nephews Chase, Miles, Abby and Ginny Harry.
Wally was a much loved member of the Freeman clan and will be deeply missed by immediate family Jane, Anne (Jim), Peter (Dani), nephew and nieces Matthew (Kelsey), Sadie (Rowan) and Calla, as well as by a cherished extended family of aunts and cousins, all of whom delighted in him.
Over the past few months, moving expressions of love and support from friends and colleagues from so many different moments and places in Wally’s life encouraged and cheered him. We know Wally’s death will bring great sorrow to countless friends, perhaps especially Stephen Rigby, who was a true brother from boyhood and a constant presence in Wally’s life.
There will be a service following cremation in Kingston, Ontario and a visitation and funeral followed by inurnment in Ottawa.
In Kingston, friends and family are invited to a memorial gathering on Friday, December 30th, from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. at James Reid Funeral Home, 1900 John Counter Blvd., Kingston. For more information: https://jamesreidfuneralhome.com/.
In Ottawa, friends and family are invited Thursday, January 5th for a visitation to be held in the sanctuary at MacKay United Church, 39 Dufferin Rd., Ottawa, from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m.
A Memorial Service will be held at MacKay, Friday, January 6th, 2023 at 1:00 p.m. with inurnment to follow at Beechwood Cemetery. The service will also be livestreamed at: https://vimeo.com/event/2756326 For more information: wallaceedwards.ca
Wally’s partner and family wish to express deep appreciation for all of the love and support, bolstering us, and Wally, through this difficult time. For those who wish, memorial contributions to Pancreatic Cancer Canada, the Ottawa or Kingston Humane Society, or the Nature Conservancy of Canada are appreciated.