appreciating WeslaPosted: February 12, 2018
We lost one of the finest interpreters of the Great American Songbook on Friday. Wesla Whitfield died at age 70. She announced her retirement from performing some months back as she was working to overcome an infection. More recently she was diagnosed with bladder cancer, and not long ago her husband and accompanist, Mike Greensill, let us know in an email that she had chosen to go on hospice care. She had been a paraplegic since 1977 when she was hit by a bullet. She was tired and she left on her own terms.
Terry and I were both big fans of Wesla. We knew her as a regular guest on the West Coast Live radio program. We have many of her CDs. We saw her in person multiple time. I believe the first time was at the Carriage House, part of the Villa Montalvo venue in Saratoga. We also saw her at the Mountain View Performing Arts Center.
The last time we saw her was at the Plush Room in San Francisco. It was located in the York Hotel (if I recall correctly) and we made it into a date weekend, staying at the hotel. When we got there we were surprised at the lack of eating choices in walking distance. We ended up ordering a pizza from a shop down the street and taking it up to our room. But it was good pizza and it got us ready for the show.
We loved the performance. After it was over Mike came out and mingled with the guests. He said to us, “We saw you smooching.” We were. They were romantic songs. We saw Wesla turn a wheelie in her wheelchair (or so it seemed to me) as she left the room.
She has now left the room for good, but I trust she is performing the Great American Songbook somewhere else without the need of a wheelchair.