On the back of the card:
A Tribute to Dr. G. Leslie Willox, Surgeon, Edmonton, AB
Whenever I would visit Drs. Dave and Laurene Willox in their Peace River home, I would find myself gazing at this painting over their fireplace. I asked Dave about it, and he smiled and said it was his father’s work of art, but it had no title and no signature. I love a good story, so I said,
“Tell me about your father.”
“Papa Bear” was born in Winnipeg in 1919, amid the strike and the influenza epidemic. He grew up in Calgary with his Scottish parents – his father, a WWI veteran and grain salesman, and his mother, a teacher and artist who loved to paint with her five children.
In 1939, Leslie went to the University of Alberta to study medicine. He joined the boxing and football teams and won the Wilson Trophy for best male athlete.
Doctors were needed during WWII, so med students were put in an accelerated program. Leslie graduated in 1943 and went off to war without a chance to go home for a visit. He was sent to England to await the invasion and then to Holland to help liberate the Dutch. He was heavyweight boxing champion in the Canadian military.
After the war, Les went back to Edmonton, then to Washington to train as a surgeon. He had a great mind, but he had dyslexia and couldn’t read well. So he attended a lot of lectures and courses and listened well. He was the third certified surgeon to come back to Edmonton, and Dr. Walter C. Mackenzie asked him to join him in his practice.
Dave said, “Though a busy surgeon, Dad loved to paint landscapes, clouds and skies. He carefully observed nature, often with a sketch book and a camera. He would get up early Sunday mornings and go down to his painting room, and he would leave these beautiful masterpieces out to dry. You could see when he was painting that the stress was off him.
“My mom was a nurse. To give her a break and let her sleep in, Dad would take us down to the zoo to paint with his portable painting kit. We’d paint whatever the theme was that day and then go off to play… I still enjoy art, especially drawing.
“My father was a big monster of a guy, but a very kind, gentle man and a philanthropist. He helped start Crystal Kids Youth Centre. He inspired me. He never pushed me to be a doctor. I just knew I wanted to be like him. It’s impossible to be like him, but he’s one of my heroes for sure…
“This is my favourite painting of all that he did.”