Myra Westphall June 10, 1938 – November 2, 2013
Myra Westphall died as she wanted to, at home, with her beloved dog Andrew by her side. Diagnosed with lung cancer at the age of 75, she designed her dying time as she designed her life, maintaining “creative control.”
Myra had a great love for learning and a lot of talent. She was the first girl to take a welding class at Grossmont High in El Cajon. In her senior year, she won First Place in a state-wide art competition which awarded her a full scholarship to an art institute back east. Myra did not attend as her parents were worried about her being so far away from home.
After high school, she married Ed Wilson and moved to Texas for a short time where they begain raising their three young children; Jim, Janah, and Judith, until they divorced and Myra returned with her children to Escondido.
Among her many jobs, her years employed at the Wild Animal Park (Safari Park) stand out. She started as a custodian cleaning bathrooms but her great curiosity for plants, animals and people, along with her resourcefulness and willingness to work hard got her recognized. Soon she was elevated to Promotional Production with her good friend Pat Barker; coordinating African dancers, planning seasonal festivals and hosting dignitaries.
It was on a cross country train trip with her sister Sheila that Myra met an English widower, Malcolm Hickman, and struck up a conversation that lasted until they reached their destination. After that, Malcolm and Myra had a torrid correspondence, until they could no longer stand being apart. Malcolm flew over from England with two suitcases to visit Myra and never left. Myra had finally found her equal in wit, affection and intellect. Myra and Malcolm loved having family and friends to their home, both sharing in entertaining and Myra preparing phenomenal meals. Malcolm was the love of her life.
These were the happiest years of Myra’s life and Malcolm opened the world to her. They traveled to England many times to visit dear friends and family, and Myra became an Anglophile. Anything English delighted her—BBC, Downtown Abbey, bangers and mash, English tea, gardens and history. There is a section in the book When God Winks at Romance describing how Myra and Malcolm’s meeting, as unexpected as it was, was no mere coincidence.
After leaving the Wild Animal Park, she went to work for the author Victor Villaseñor. She took great pride to have co-edited his bestseller, Rain of Gold, and then she went on to run his office for many years. This segued into Myra opening her own speaking bureau and representing artists, most notably Simon Silva. When Malcolm’s daughter Clare and her husband Mike invited Myra to partner with them to sell German horse care products, she transitioned into marketing and sales mode.
Myra had 15 good years with Malcolm and after he died she eventually moved into Imperial Mobile Estates as caretaker to her friend Grace where she remained after Grace died. It was perfectly suited for Myra. She always had a cup of coffee ready for the many neighbors who dropped by eager to hear any good jokes, share their stories and Myra was always willing to give them her honest advice.
During this same time, she co-founded First Reads, a manuscript evaluating and editing company, with her dear friend Barbara Villaseñor. She brought intelligence, good guidance and humor to all the projects they worked on together. And she lived long enough to be told that one of her favorite books which she co-edited, Ricardo Breceda: Accidental Artist had just won its eighth literary award.
A pragmatist. Nature lover. Quick-witted. Curious. Voracious reader. A master seamstress who enjoyed making outfits for her grandkids. A formidable cook who loved to feed everyone. Myra was all these things but most of all she had genuine interest in people; no matter what station in life, and, as private of a person as she was, she was always available to be someone’s confidante, counselor, cheerleader, or shoulder to cry on. She had a no-nonsense, matter-of-fact-way of telling it as she saw it. And that is what she asked of her doctors this past year. And that is how she prepared her family and friends to support her during her illness. And this is how she expressed her gratitude and love to them; enough to last a lifetime.
Myra is survived by her brother Brice Westphall; her children Jim Wilson, his wife Renée and their children Brianna, Emily, Trent and Michaela; Janah Wilson and her son Nick; Judith Wilson and her wife Karen Knudsen; Linda Schutt and her son Wyatt; grandchildren Georjina Hickman and Chris Hickman, and many other adoring relatives and friends.
In accordance with Myra’s love of nature, her memorial service will be held Thursday, November 21st, 11:00 a.m. The family will be serving a wonderful Mexican lunch at Myra’s request after the service. Please contact Judith Wilson at 760-855-0373 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org to get directions.
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