Stuart Lawrence Wilkie

Published 10:40 am Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Stuart Lawrence Wilkie, of Tupelo, Miss., and formerly of Wilmington, Del., died at North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo on Sunday, March 18, 2018, after an 18-month struggle with cancer. He was 43.

He was born in Wilmington and spent much of his life there before marrying Melissa Edwards Dodson of Tupelo in June 2016. He was diagnosed with cancer three months later.

Prior to marrying his wife, he taught in elementary schools in Delaware, where his empathy for children and love of jokes earned him a beloved following among his colleagues and students. During summers, he taught at the Delaware Nature Center where he guided children on nature hikes, frog hunting expeditions and turtle races. This past December, his spirits were lifted when scores of friends, former students and colleagues sent him a trove of cards, ornaments and gifts for a Christmas tree his family had decorated just for him.

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He earned a B.A. in Elementary Education from Wilmington University. Prior to that, he graduated with Summa Cum Laude honors with an Associate’s Degree in Elementary Education from Delaware Technical and Community College. To advance his lifelong interest in graphic illustration, he studied at the Atlanta College of Art and Design and earned an Associate’s Degree in Graphic Design from Mount Ida College, in Newton, Mass.

Stuart could always be counted on for a pun or a prank and a disarming grin. He had a photographic memory of dates, past events and sports trivia. He was a talented artist, filled hundreds of sketch books with drawings and often gave his artwork to others. He was commissioned to illustrate children’s rooms and was hired by Marini Produce to design and paint their delivery truck, which can still be seen driving the streets of Wilmington.

He was fascinated by graffiti as an artistic medium and pointed out to the uninitiated the difference between vandalism sprayed on public property and true art, which he traveled to see in galleries and museums. He also followed rap music and once wrote a term paper about the hip-hop cultural fusion of rap and graffiti. He knew professional artists in both fields and spoke with some he long admired in his final days.

He enjoyed traveling the world, spending three summers at a young age in the Middle East and Europe. He went to Russia and Ukraine as a high school student, celebrated his college graduation in Paris with his mother and honeymooned with his wife in Tuscany, Italy.

In Wilmington, he was a member and Deacon of First & Central Presbyterian Church. He was a passionate fan of the Philadelphia Eagles, 76’ers and Phillies. On the night of the Eagles Super Bowl victory in February, he rallied by singing and dancing to their fight song, “Fly, Eagles, Fly” and kissed the television when the Lombardy Trophy was held aloft by a player on the screen.

In addition to his wife, Stuart’s favorite companion was his dog Keebler, a loyal Tibetan terrier that rarely left his side during his illness.

He leaves his wife, Melissa, of Tupelo, two stepchildren, Chandler and Celia; his mother, Jane Pelegrin Wilkie of Taylor, Miss., and Wilmington; his father, Curtis Wilkie of Oxford, Miss.; his older brother, Carter and sister-in-law Allison Wilkie of Boston, Mass.; his sister, Leighton McCool and brother-in-law Campbell McCool of Oxford; his uncle Larry Pelegrin of Wilmington; three nephews, Davis, Merrick and Wyatt McCool and three nieces, Cameron, Morgan and Brynn Wilkie.

Funeral service to be held in Oxford at First Presbyterian Church on Friday, March 23 at 2 p.m. Interment private. A memorial service will be held in Wilmington at a later date. In lieu of flowers, Stuart’s family suggests donations to First Presbyterian Church or Teach for America – Mississippi, 299 S. 9th Street, Oxford, MS 38655.