Otto (Ottie) John Weiler was born in Victoria, BC on March 27, 1903, to a well-to-do mercantile family. His grandparents, John and Christiana Weiler, established a successful furniture factory and other businesses. Reminders of the Weiler family still exist in Victoria, most notably the six-story Weiler Building at the corner of Broad and Government streets, originally a grandly-appointed department store, and the Weiler cenotaph in Ross Bay cemetery.
Mary was born Mary Agnes Campbell on March 13, 1915, in Enderby, BC. She studied nursing at the Royal Jubilee hospital in Victoria, and then departed for France, having decided to work her way around the world. When war broke out, however, she was evacuated from France at Dunkirk, and immediately joined the British army. She served a nurse in London for the duration of the war, and here she met Ottie, a major with the Canadian Scottish regiment. There were married in 1943, and both went back to their respective postings with the army, looking forward to the day when they could live together.
When Ottie and Mary sailed into Whaletown Bay, they were immediately enchanted by the house on the point, half-built and occupying 5 rocky acres of waterfront. They were urban and idealistic, and ready to throw themselves into life on a remote island. At first they turned their hand to fishing commercially. Their boat was twelve-foot clinker built inboard; a salmon license cost a dollar. In 1949 they were hired by Cece Stubbs to manage the Whaletown Store. When Gary and Velma Bergman bought the store in 1956, Ottie was offered the position of Whaletown postmaster, a job he held until a few months before his death.
Mary was an artist—a talented and serious one. In spite of the isolation of Cortes Island in those days, she made a name for herself as a British Columbia artist of note, showing her work widely and selling internationally. Her studio was the dining-room table, surrounded by a swirl of children, and her paintings and prints were created in the midst of the gardening, fishing and canning necessary to country survival.
Ottie was a writer (he had been a journalist before the war), and was a passionate gardener, fisherman, hunter and forager who tirelessly explored the trails and homesteads on the north end of Cortes, and beachcombed all his firewood.
They were both dedicated to community service. Ottie was Justice of the Peace, and he also served on the boards of the Whaletown Community Club and other organizations for many years. Mary acted as a community nurse, as well as teaching First Aid classes, holding monthly clinics, and canvassing for the Canadian cancer society. She taught annual art classes and workshops for adults and children, and in the late '60s, she and Ottie opened a summer art gallery in their Whaletown home, the Garden Gallery, as a showcase for local artists and craftspeople.
Ottie and Mary had four daughters: Christina, born March 23rd, 1951; Brigid, born June 6th, 1953; Alexandra (who, however, has always gone by the nickname “Johnny”) born May 5th, 1955; and Sarah, born September 27th, 1958.
In 1973 Ottie died after a short illness, and Mary didn't want to stay in their dream home without him. In 1974 she sold the house and said farewell to Whaletown. Mary Weiler went on to many more adventures - studying, travelling, and always making art - and died in Victoria in 1999.
[by Brigid Weiler, March 10, 2016]