The Walker Legacy: inspiring leadership in the matter of art

The LAMPS Newsletter, December 1919

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Brian Walker, Gillian Marwick, Peter Walker

 

On September 18, 2014, the Friends of the Osborne Collection hosted a reception to mark the opening of “Lest We Forget: War in Books for Young Readers,” an exhibit curated by Elizabeth Derbecker, who also prepared the catalogue of the display.

Both the exhibit and its accompanying catalogue were dedicated to the memory of Margaret and Wentworth Walker, Life members of the Friends of the Osborne and Lillian H. Smith Collections.

 

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Margaret Walker and Wentworth Walker

Margaret and Wentworth Walker: A Memorial Tribute
Margaret and Wentworth together made significant contributions to the cultural heritage of this city, and to Toronto Public Library’s Osborne Collection in particular. Following in the footsteps of his distinguished grandfather, Sir Edmund Walker, Wentworth Walker supported music, art and literature. A long-time member of the Arts and Letters Club, Wentworth also championed the preservation of important landmarks and natural resources through the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario and the Federation of Ontario Naturalists. On a more personal level, Wentworth was a mentor and a friend to all, from emerging scholars and young enthusiasts to experts in art and literature.  Elisabeth Margaret (née Steel) Walker, known to friends as “Margaret,” took an active role both in the Association of Women Electors as their Observer at the Board of Education and in a local Ratepayers Association, and also in building the Friends of the Osborne Collection, serving as the second Chair of the Friends Executive. In this capacity Margaret requested, and was granted, the patronage of Her Royal Highness Princess Alexandra, who has twice visited the Osborne Collection.

Though he maintained a serene attitude, the death of Margaret in 1989 shadowed Wentworth’s life ever after. From that time, Wentworth sponsored many projects in memory of Margaret.  When Wentworth died in 2009 he had arranged a bequest for the Osborne Collection of Early Children’s Books. This plan, so generously realized by Margaret and Wentworth’s sons, Peter Walker and Brian Walker, was celebrated in an evening that featured speeches by the Chair of the Friends of the Osborne and Lillian H. Smith Collections, Sylvia Lassam, the President of the Toronto Public Library Foundation, Heather Rumball, by the Senior Department Head, Leslie McGrath, and by a special guest speaker, Margaret Crawford Maloney, whose tenure as Head of the Osborne Collection spanned years of friendship with the Walkers.

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Sylvia Lassam

Margaret shared some delightful reminiscences of happy years, including a remarkable anecdote of Wentworth calmly swinging from a high chandelier at the Arts and Letters Club when a faulty ladder broke beneath him, and the complex work behind a visit to Osborne by a member of the Royal Family.

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 Margaret Crawford Maloney

Elizabeth Derbecker then escorted guests on a tour through the exhibit, “Lest We Forget,” which was designed to offer a context for parents and educators to use in introducing children to a difficult topic. One of the most successful Osborne exhibits to date, the display attracted visitors from across the city. This exhibit and its accompanying catalogue was very well reviewed, with one critic noting “It will gain the library many new friends be they bibliophiles, historians or friends of young readers’ literature.” (Wiebke Smyth, Ex Libris). In a congratulatory letter about the exhibit and catalogue, Laureen Harper, wife of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, wrote “I was delighted to learn of this wonderful initiative…I commend your efforts to ensure younger generations are aware of the proud history of the Allied and Canadian Armed Forces…It is imperative that today’s children understand that the freedoms they enjoy today are a direct result of the sacrifices made by brave men and women many years ago.”  We believe Wentworth and Margaret would have appreciated the spirit of the exhibit, and would have been particularly pleased by the wide audience it attracted.

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Elizabeth Derbecker

Refreshments were provided by the Friends of the Osborne and Lillian H. Smith Collections, who joined the Foundation, Toronto Public Library and the Toronto Public Library Foundation in paying tribute to Margaret and Wentworth, and to their sons, Peter and Brian, and their families, for making the  Margaret and Wentworth Walker Endowment Fund an enduring legacy.

 

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