An Open Letter to Scott Wilson: One Nerd’s Niagara Falls Comic Con Experience
Hello, Mr. Wilson.
I’m going to refer to you as “Scott” since “Mr. Wilson” sounds like Dennis’ curmudgeonly neighbor and as I recently learned, you’re anything but grumpy or rough. My daughter stood in line while traversing a ridiculously-narrow path of green painter’s tape June 6 at Niagara Falls Comic Con with a single goal sustaining her: To meet the man who brought Hershel Greene to life on a “little relatively unknown” show called (ironically enough), The Walking Dead.
Hershel, you see, wasn’t just a character on a television apocalyptic drama, he was a ray of hope, a lifeline to a dying man.
My daughter’s grandfather, John Fisher, moved in with us five years ago when his emphysema began to make daily life too difficult to navigate alone. Emphysema is a diabolical disease, Scott. It can reduce a man who was once a master plumber/handyman to a broken soul who needs help to bathe or even empty his bowels.
But while Dad’s soul was strained, he never, ever, gave up. He learned to embrace life and live for those little moments we all take for granted; a relaxing afternoon on the front porch on a bright summer day, an uninterrupted nap with his beloved canine companion, a delicious meal with the family, conversations with his beloved granddaughter… and an hour of television with his son-in-law, wrapped in the world of a group of strangers battling to survive in a world overcome by chaos.
An 87-year-old grandfather is the last person you’d choose if you had to describe the average Walking Dead fan, but Dad looked forward to Sundays, specifically, nine o’clock on AMC, with all the glee of a child on Christmas. The cliffhanger endings drove him insane (in a good way), but he loved to watch you work your magic every week – with a little help, of course. More than any other character, he identified with Hershel.
- You were both old school gentleman who found themselves overwhelmed by the modern world. (Granted, Hershel’s trials involved more than navigating the intricacies of modern technology or language.)
- You were both men of honor.
- You both battled demons, inside and out.
- And above all, family came first.
As an actor, you may sometimes ponder whether or not your work has a significant, lasting impact on the world, Scott. Trust me, it does. You created a character that may have met with a brutal end, but Hershel has become immortal, and will be inspiring viewers for generations.
On March 11, 2015, at 1 am, Dad left this world for the next. He passed peacefully in a hospital room that was silent save for the mechanical hiss of a breathing apparatus. As I watched him surrender to his mortality I was flooded with memories of our time together; those Sunday nights were some of the strongest.
And that brings us back to that line. As soon as my daughter became aware of your attendance at our local con an idea germinated in her mind. She had acquired Vincent Pastore’s autograph a few months before Dad’s passing and it lifted his spirits immeasurably.
“I think I’ll get Hershel’s autograph for Poppy. He would have liked that.”
A simple sentiment that speaks volumes, isn’t it, Scott? And so my family happily stood in a line of nerdy, human cattle until we reached your table. I stood back and watched as my progeny engaged you in conversation. And then something truly inspiring happened.
Your congenial expression became even friendlier, and then you stepped out from behind your table and gave my daughter a warm hug. I’ve been to many a con in my day, Scott, and I can tell you, an unsolicited hug from a celebrity is a rare and wonderful thing. But you went even further; posing for a picture with my daughter without even asking her for financial compensation. My wife joined in on the conversation and as she told you about Dad I could see your face drop. You understood, you got it. Dad was an irreplaceable part of our lives and we’re grateful for your contribution to his life.
I wish I had taken the time to let you know all this in person but Hershel’s fans were waiting and I simply didn’t have the words. My wife is usually quite reserved but as we walked away she paused to examine the picture we snapped with tears in her eyes. My wife is notoriously private and so I’m risking a thrashing just mentioning this, Scott, but I was particularly moved by her revealing her emotions and so it warrants mentioning.
I hope this post serves as a wake-up call to anyone who still refers to a con as a “funny book convention”. I hope I get to meet you again, Scott; if not in person, then on the screen, big or small. I hope that when my turns comes to be an elder statesman, I live up to the example of men like you and John Fisher.
That’s all I have. Be well, Scott.
And thank you.