Katherine and Earl Willmott

Katharine and Earl Willmott went to China in 1921, spending their first term in Renshou and coming to Chengdu in 1931, where Katharine joined the WCUU English Department to teach English literature, specializing in the 19th century Romantic Poets. Earl taught at the Canadian Mission Middle School behind the campus (1931-43), then education at WCUU for his last term (1946-52). He taught “manual training” (woodwork) at the CS for many years in that woodworking workshop in the basement of the school. They lived on the Back Row, across the Back Stream from Canadian Row. On a trip to Chengdu in 1996, Dora Stinson, Gwyneth and Phyllis Allen were escorted around the campus by Rev. Franklin Wu who took us to see the Willmott and Stinson houses. The little creek that separated the backyards of the houses that Bill used to take his boat “Toni” out on had been filled in. The verandas of the Willmott house had been enclosed so that we would not have recognized the house without Franklin’s help. Since that time the Willmott house has been demolished to make way for widening of the road that ran in front of the Back Row.

With the school closed in the spring of 1949, Phyllis Allen needed to place to board during her grade 9 year. Earl and Kay graciously took her in and provided a loving home for her. She enjoyed the wonderful Sunday breakfast popovers and delicious Chinese food that the Willmott cook was so good at. Kay taught her to make delicious chocolates at Christmas and Easter, as well as being her English teacher. She and Phyllis shared wonderful literature like The Odyssey and The Iliad, Lady of the Lake, as well as Shakespeare’s’ Midsummer Night’s Dream with Dryden Phelps university English class. The Willmotts had a piano where Phyllis spent many hours, both in practice and for pleasure. At Christmas, even Santa Claus came to visit Phyllis.

The Willmotts were among the very last Protestant missionaries to leave China in March 1952, so they experienced first-hand the early days of the revolution. Phyllis Allen was staying with them during that tense period of uncertainty until she went with the Stockwells back to Chongqing and her family in May 1950. During the Korean War, the Willmotts experienced growing anti-foreign feeling and found that they became isolated from their Chinese colleagues, so finally decided to leave, even though they were invited to stay and teach English. When they returned to Canada, they went to Mount Royal College, a UCC college in Calgary, where Earl became Bursar, and Katharine, librarian, until they retired in 1966. They retired to Vancouver, where they both died in 1986, Katharine at 89 and Earl at 90. They are survived by their four children: Joy in Montréal, Don in Owen Sound, Dick on Salt Spring island, and Bill in Christchurch, New Zealand


One thought on “Katherine and Earl Willmott

  1. Minor error the Willmott house at 103 HuoBa still stands and is occupied. Willmotts left Chengdu in 1952, the house was assigned to the dean of medicine (we were told), and was occupied by another university staff member when we visited it in 2011(?). We will visit again in early May 2015.

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