"When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left and could say, 'I used everything you gave.'" This well-known quote from humorist Erma Bombeck was heard at a memorial service to describe Mitch Wilson, 69, local artist, art teacher and community arts leader who passed away Jan. 16 after battling illness during much of last year.A memorial service for Wilson at the Arlington Museum of Art on Sunday brought out more than 150 friends, co-workers and admirers to celebrate his life and fondly recall experiences they had shared with him over the years. Several speakers eulogized Wilson with funny stories and touching anecdotes about a man well known in Arlington's arts scene.A slide show of photographs of Wilson, who taught in the Arlington school district for 38 years, flashed on the screen to show tunes that Wilson had requested be played at his service. Also on display were his favorite flowers -- roses and lilies -- in a spectacular bouquet decorating the podium.Arlington school district art coordinator Linh Nguyen described Wilson as "a man of integrity and passion and one who always cared about others, especially the students he taught and his friends in the art world."Nguyen recalled that each year in the districtwide Reflections youth art show, 30 drawings of chickens were the traditional entries of Wilson's art students. Nguyen said Wilson loved the technique of drawing and considered the chicken a good subject for his young artists to sketch. His own collection of the barnyard fowl was on display in his classroom to inspire students.Numerous honors were bestowed on Wilson during his career as a leader in arts-related nonprofit organizations. In 2001, he was named the Star-Telegram Man of the Year. He received the Linda Cordova Memorial Award in 1997 from the Arlington Arts League and was placed on the Arlington school district's Wall of Fame in 2002.'Clashed in love'Museum board President Nancy Tice, who organized the memorial for Wilson, and museum Executive Director Chris Hightower spoke in his honor with affectionate recollections.Tice said she and Wilson worked together on numerous special events for the museum and arts league and laughingly referred to his well-known headstrong attitude and desire for absolute perfection as a recipe for disagreements but said they always "clashed in love."During Wilson's turn as membership chairman for the museum, his dogged determination grew membership from 69 to more than 350, a result that was characteristic of similar successes he achieved for other arts causes he believed in, Tice said.Arts patron Roni Bridges said she met Mitch when he rented an upstairs room from her and her husband the year Wilson came to Arlington to begin his teaching career."Mitch is like a part of our family ... like a third son. I remember a time that Bob and I were on vacation and our little poodle died while we were away. Mitch did a beautiful painting of my poodle and had it displayed when we returned home. I was so touched."Close friend and neighbor Raymond Jacobo said of Wilson, "He was the best man I ever met. He treated me like a son and was like the father I never had." Tice said Jacobo provided much support and help to Wilson during his illness and described him during the service as "Mitch's adopted son."School district administrators O.J. Kemp and Lesia Rodawalt, principals Wilson worked under, were among many educators who attended Wilson's service. "Mitch was an awesome leader for Gunn Junior High. In fact I think he could be considered by many as 'Mr. GJH.'"Rodawalt also admired him and said, "Mitch was a fabulous art teacher. He did so many great things for our kids and went the extra mile every single day."Personal friendMitch was my friend, too, and I clearly remember being in awe of his flamboyant style and fearless approach to planning grandiose events when we worked together at Gunn, where my kids went to school.The spring awards ceremony he helped produce could have been compared to a Hollywood party, and the kids flowing into the gym or cafeteria where dances were held entered a space that had been completely transformed into some magical realm. .Not until later in my career when producing events was part of my job did I realize that it was partially Mitch's influence that gave me confidence and courage to pull off an event with minimal resources. His example taught me the value of choosing hardworking, reliable and enthusiastic people to team with on big projects.I loved Mitch, and so did countless others who were lucky enough to call him friend. When the voice on a phone call I answered said, "Faye Marie," Mitch's nickname for me, I knew I was in for a few good laughs from a friend who wanted to hear what was going on in my life.Donations in Mitch's memory may be made to the scholarship to be named in his honor by the arts league or a contribution to the museum. Learn more at www.arlingtonartsleague.com or www.arlingtonmuseum.org.Rest in peace, my friend.