Bench, proclamation honor Mary and late Ralph Wilson

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published August 6, 2019

 While standing in front of a bench to be placed in Osius Park in honor of the Wilsons, during a July 16 City Council meeting, Grosse Pointe Shores Mayor Ted Kedzierski reads a proclamation to Shores resident Mary Wilson in honor of her philanthropy and that of her late husband, Ralph Wilson.

While standing in front of a bench to be placed in Osius Park in honor of the Wilsons, during a July 16 City Council meeting, Grosse Pointe Shores Mayor Ted Kedzierski reads a proclamation to Shores resident Mary Wilson in honor of her philanthropy and that of her late husband, Ralph Wilson.

Photo by K. Michelle Moran

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GROSSE POINTE SHORES — It was tennis that brought Mary and Ralph Wilson together, so it only seems fitting that benches in honor of the couple will be placed near the Osius Park tennis courts.

The prominent philanthropists and longtime Grosse Pointe Shores residents — whose support for countless nonprofits in metro Detroit and Buffalo earned them the 2019 Legacy on the Lake Award from the Grosse Pointe Chamber of Commerce — were honored July 16 in front of the Shores City Council, as Mayor Ted Kedzierski presented Mary Wilson with a proclamation.

Ralph Wilson died in 2014 at the age of 95. He was the first prominent Shores resident to be added to the relatively new Shores Hall of Fame, a wall of plaques at City Hall in honor of significant residents that was created circa 2016.

“It’s the best honor I have as mayor, to present this proclamation,” Kedzierski told Mary Wilson as both of them stood in front of one of the two wooden benches that will be added to the park.

He said a plaque on the benches will read, “Ralph and Mary Wilson — Champions 120-and-Over,” which acknowledges a European championship the couple won as doubles partners. The number reflected their combined ages.

“On our way to the match, Ralph asked if we were old enough (to compete in that category),” Wilson said with a smile. “I said yes.”

Mary Wilson has carried on her husband’s legacy through the Ralph C. Wilson Foundation, which supports initiatives in caregiving, community assets, youth sports, and design and access — issues that were important to Ralph Wilson, who owned the Buffalo Bills football franchise.

Ralph Wilson met the former Mary McLean, a Texas native, at the West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills, New York, where she worked as a tennis instructor.

“I met Ralph in 1990, and he brought me to the Midwest,” Wilson said. “I feel like Buffalo is the Midwest (too).”

Wilson said she wished her husband could have been there for the ceremony in the Shores.

“This is very moving and very special, and Ralph would be very honored to be here in your presence,” she told Shores officials.

“He’s (here) in spirit,” Kedzierski said. “I only wish he had won the Super Bowl.”

Like her late husband, Mary Wilson is known for being approachable and unpretentious.

“She’s really a super person,” Shores City Manager Mark Wollenweber said.

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