She was one of the most popular comedians in the country and regularly graced our TV screens – but when it came to her personal life, Cal Wilson kept it fairly low-key.
The New Zealand-born star, who died on Wednesday aged 53 after a “short illness”, tragically leaves behind her husband of 20 years, Chris Woods, and their 14-year-old son, Digby.
Just months before her shock passing, Wilson offered a rare glimpse into her relationship with Woods during a candid interview with TheSydney Morning Herald, revealing they’d met at a bar in Northcote shortly after she’d moved to Melbourne in 2003.
“I was getting over a bad relationship at the time and we met at a mutual friend’s gig. I thought, ‘He could be a great fling’,” she recalled.
“Twenty years later, we are still together with a 14-year-old son.”
The couple tied the knot five years after meeting, then welcomed their son in 2009.
Wilson also revealed that she’d found out later on that the “mutual friend” had actually set them up after hearing that she thought Woods “was cute”.
“Chris is a kind human and a man of his word,” she gushed to the Herald this year.
“He will fill up the car with petrol to make life easier when I am stressed.
“When Chris couldn’t stay at the gig one night, he told me he had to leave as he wanted to see one of his students run a cross-country. I thought, ‘Wow, here is a man who has chosen to be a teacher not for the money but because he genuinely loves it’.”
After news of her death was announced on Wednesday, Melbourne photographer Alan Moyle shared a series of images of Wilson, including a stunning portrait from her wedding day.
“We had so many memories, both for work and for fun, from the first time we did a shoot back in 2003 through to her and Chris’s brilliantly colourful wedding,” he wrote alongside the picture.
“I’m going to miss her and devastated for Chris, Digby, the cats and the whole extended family.”
The entertainment industry has been rocked by news of Wilson’s sudden death, which was confirmed in a heartbreaking statement released on Wednesday by her management company, Token Artists.
“We are devastated to share the news that Cal Wilson, the much-loved stand-up comedian, writer and actor died today, surrounded by family and friends after a short illness at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney,” the statement read.
“Cal’s generosity, talent and friendship have been constants in the Australian comedy scene for the past 20 years.
“Cal was loved by her family, friends, fans and peers and a huge hole has been torn in the heart of our community.”
Wilson was a popular and well-known figure on the comedy circuit, quickly rising to fame after first moving to Melbourne to star in sketch show Skithouse in 2003.
She appeared in numerous TV shows across her 20-year career, including Have You Been Paying Attention?, Rove Live, Good News Week, Spicks and Specks, The Project, Hughesy, We Have A Problem and reality shows such as Dancing With The Stars and I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here.
Wilson also worked as a radio host, appearing alongside Akmal Saleh and Ed Kavalee on Nova’s Drive program The Wrong Way Home before landing the breakfast gig on Nova 100 with Dylan Lewis.
Wilson’s last appearance was as a co-host of The Great Australian Bake Off alongside Natalie Tran, which was in production before she was first admitted to hospital.
Leading Aussie entertainers took to social media to express their disbelief and pay tribute to Wilson on Wednesday, with Rebel Wilson describing the news as “so tragic”.
“This is so tragic and my heart goes out to Cal’s family,” she said.
“I was very very lucky to work with Cal on multiple projects especially over the last few years where she wrote brilliant material for me. She was amazingly talented and amazingly kind.”
Shaynna Blaze wrote that it was “heartbreaking”.
“I can’t even comprehend this right now. The most divine, radiant person who I have watched, admired and worked alongside,” she wrote on social media.
Australian of the Year Dylan Alcott paid tribute to the “beautiful person who always had time for everyone”, adding that it was “always a pleasure any time I got to work next to you.”
“Completely heartbreaking news. Cal was the most kind and beautiful soul. Sending all our love to her family,” fellow comedian Nazeem Hussain said.
Meanwhile, TV host Grant Denyer wrote that he was left “shaking” by the announcement of her passing.
“I can’t believe what I’m reading. How unbelievably sad. The most tender, kind, generous and talented performer I’ve ever had the pleasure to work alongside,” he wrote.