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Featured Obituary: William Farmer Wilson
Bill and Ruth Wilson

Last month, William Farmer Wilson passed away at the age of 100, leaving the world bereft of a World War II veteran, teacher, mentor, and leaving his wife Ruth Wilson her dear friend of 60-plus years and husband of 12 years. Wilson, a Virginia native, spent much of his adult life in North Carolina, retiring with his first wife, Margaret Hudson Wilson, to her family farm in Conyers in 1971. Recognized by many as the "ultimate southern gentleman," Wilson served in various branches of the armed forces reserves retiring as a Lt. Colonel in the Air Force Reserves after 31 years of service. Throughout this time, he was also an educator and county extension agent.

Bill and Ruth’s story began platonically when they met after World Ear II. While stationed in the Philippines, he met his good friend, Lee Lucas, her first husband. On a cross-country trip they stopped to meet Bill, and he had prepared a honeymoon suite for them. Over the years, the couples visited each other during their travels.

In 1997, their respective spouses passed away within months of one another. A long-distance phone courtship evolved after many calls comforting each other during the grieving process. "We both understood what the other was going through. That was the end of our short single life," said Ruth, who lived in Charlottesville, Va. She’s still amused he would never divulge the amount of his phone bills. Before he proposed, he wrote letters asking both her daughters’ permission. "It’s kind of cool that your first and second dad were good friends. He’s known my sister and I our whole lives," said Lin Maines, Ruth’s daughter.

Maines had many wonderful stories of her stepfather. She loved the one of how he gained admittance to NC State. Bill sold a family steer for $40 and promissory note for tuition. Not only did he graduate with an agricultural degree, but he also taught there for a time. Up until his death, he would lead family and nursing staff in evening exercises. "He would begin with chanting ‘Are you happy? If you’re happy, turn to your neighbor and make him happy too,’" said Maines.

"He’s the most nearly perfect person I’ve ever known. He just loved living, and he had a tremendous love for God," said Ruth. Never one to let his age stop him, he worked in his garden every day until two years ago. He took pleasure in ordering seeds and made sure there was something blooming year round. "We enjoyed our marriage so much. We were never without something interesting to do or see," said Ruth. They divided their time between Conyers and Charlottesville.

Among the many things Bill gave her, she most treasures a framed copy of his proposal speech. With all the special details in place, including wine and flowers, he began with a quote from the poet Roy Croft, "I love you for not only who you are, but what I am when I am with you. I love you not only for what you have made of yourself, but what you are making of me…," and finished with his own words, "I believe God in his wisdom has brought us together as one for a purpose to live our life together at our ages to show troubled marriages His way of living." Ruth said people always commented they would like their marriage to be like the Wilsons’. "We were so pleasant to each other, but we were ready for it. I already raised my children, and he and Margaret never had children," she said.

Though she misses him terribly, Ruth said she’s glad he made it to his goal of 100 last Thanksgiving Day. Before he passed away, he was recognized by Willard Scott, local congressmen, the Rockdale County Board of Commissioners and Conyers Mayor declared a day in Bill Willson’s honor. Their church, Conyers Presbyterian, also threw a big celebration gathering many family and friends.