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Ask NOW: Where did the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts get its name?

Sharon Lynn Wilson Center for the Performing Arts

Sharon Lynn Wilson Center for the Performing Arts Photo By C.T. Kruger

June 3, 2014

Is there a rumor you'd like tracked down? Geoff Bruce answers some of the mysteries of life in Brookfield and helps solve everyday problems.

Who is the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts named for?

Question: The Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts, 19805 W. Capitol Drive, is a well-known venue. But who was Sharon Lynne Wilson?

Response: The reason for the center's name is, in fact, far more romantic than one might expect, even in the realm of the fine arts.

Having originally met at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., Don Wilson and his wife, Sharon, moved to the Milwaukee area in the late 1960s. Don had been offered a job with an investment management firm.

"Don was working his way up and getting pretty wealthy.," Wilson Center Executive Director Jonathan Winkle said.

Sharon took care of the kids. She sold real estate for a period of time and was also somewhat involved with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.

"She did have an appreciation and love of the arts," Winkle said.

Sharon Wilson died in 1995 due to complications related to breast cancer.

In 1997, Don Wilson met his future second wife, Kate.

"Meanwhile, there was a group of people trying to raise money to build something to support the arts programs in the Elmbrook schools. They weren't having much success," Winkle said.

Don Wilson came home for lunch one day and picked up the newspaper. It was then that he learned about the fundraising efforts.

"Don and Kate had been looking for an opportunity to honor Sharon's memory, and Kate also had a real passion for the arts," Winkle said. "She saw this as an opportunity to both honor Sharon's memory and build something for the community."

Don Wilson provided a hefty donation that gave the cause momentum.

"He was in a position to put a lead naming gift on the table. It's, of course, a great story of community, with a lot of people coming together, but in a very real way, it's an amazing love story as well," Winkle said.

Email your question to Geoff Bruce at gbruce@jrn.com.

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