Feb 14 2013 By Michael Russell
Willis Wilkie (left) who has died. He is pictured here with the Ealing Mayor when he won the first Pride in Our People Awards.
A FORMER social worker dubbed the sage of Southall for being the person to turn to in times of trouble has passed away after an illness.
Willis Wilkie, 86, of Ascot Gardens, founded a raft of organisations and worked for decades to help improve the lives of black people and fight prejudice.
In 1975 he set up the Caribbean Parents’ Group to support their children’s education and promote Caribbean and African history in schools. Even in his final few years he visited schools as part of an oral history project.
Mr Wilkie created a supplementary schools system with his wife Edna and others. They recruited a team of volunteer teachers to hold extra lessons for those struggling at school.
He advocated for young people in trouble and started up a credit union to help people turned away from banks.
One of his students was Grace Quansah, an author, performance artist, researcher and director of WAPPY, which develops the writing skills of youngsters.
She said: “Mr Wilkie spotted a talent in me which I was not ready to acknowledge to myself, partly because I had underachieved in my exams.
“He awakened a consciousness in me which I will be eternally indebted to him for.”
His daughter Pier Wilkie, of south-east London, said: “Many people have called me to say how much he affected their lives and how grateful they were for the support they got.
“He was a brilliant father: encouraging, told terrible puns and gave me the belief that whatever I wanted to do in life I could achieve it. He was demanding of himself and demanding of others but really generous and very modest. He always questioned whether he had done enough.”
Mr Wilkie came from Barbados in 1955. After working for London Underground he trained to become a social worker before getting a job at Kensington and Chelsea Council.
He twice turned down the Queen’s honours but in 2009 the community came together to celebrate his life and the event was attended by the high commissioner of Barbados.
And Mr Wilkie won the top prize in the Gazette’s first Pride in Our People Awards in March 2004 for the massive difference he made to the lives of those around him.
He said at the time: “Apart from the time my daughter was born, this is the proudest moment of my life.”
Mr Wilkie died last Tuesday, February 5. His funeral will be held on Friday, February 22 at a location yet to be confirmed.
He is survived by his daughter.