500 Meet at St. John's to Mourn Loss of Bill W.
Monday, February 15, 1971
By Paul L. Montgomery
"He was my inspiration, and not mine alone," said Marty M.; one of the first women members of Alcoholics Anonymous. "He was one of the most gifted human beings who ever lived on this earth. She spoke at a memorial service yesterday afternoon at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine for William Griffith Wilson, the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, who died Jan.24.
In the tradition of the group whose inspiration he was, Mr. Wilson was known during his life as Bill W. His full name, like that of the other co-founder, Dr. Robert Holbrook Smith, was disclosed only after death. Dr. Smith died in 1950.
About 5000 members and others; including Mr. Wilson's wife, Lois, gathered in the crossing of the cathedral for the service, one of many held throughout the world yesterday to honor the founder. There was fond laughter at remembrance of his first direct and sometimes irascible ways, reverent silence when his virtues were described, and a few tears.
"When we saw him, we knew we were in the presence of greatness," said Bob H., general manager of the group's World Service Office. "Bill really needs no panegyrics from us, no monuments. We just have to think of the half million recovered alcoholics," Dr. John L. Norris, chairman of the group's board of trustees, recalled that Mr. Wilson, after doing much to develop the group therapy methods, decreased his role in the organization to promote group responsibility.
"We can never again say, as we have said so many times before, "Bill, what do you think?" Dr. Norris said. "What his death means is that all of us will have to listen harder than ever to discern the group consciousness." Dr. Norris, a retired physician, was not an alcoholic, so he acts, as he says "the face man" for the group and allows his name to be used. "I drink once in a while," the doctor said in an interview. "It doesn't do much for me though."
The service was conducted by the Rev. Yvelin Gardner of St. George's Episcopal Church, Hempstead, L. I.; Rabbi David Seligson of the Central Synagogue, 55th Street and Lexington Avenue, and Father Joe A., a Catholic priest, read prayers.
THE NEW YORK TIMES©
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