Thursday, June 21, 2012

Interview of Wilson House President and Bill W. Christian Upbringing

Preview of Tuesday, June 26th Christian Recovery Radio Interview by Dick B.

of Bonnie Burke (formerly Lepper), President of Wilson House

Dick B.

Copyright 2012 Anonymous. All rights reserved

AA Historian and Author Dick B. will interview Wilson House President and Managing Director Bonnie Burke – whose deceased former husband, Ozzie Lepper, poured his money, his life, and his dreams into the restoration of Wilson House in East Dorset, Vermont. It is the birthplace of Bill W., who was a cofounder of Alcoholics Anonymous and whose final resting place, with his wife Lois, is in a little nearby cemetery.

The historical site is nationally known, visited by thousands of thankful AAs and their families, and a warm and friendly New England inn where meals are served family style after prayer, morning Quiet Time is observed as it was in early A.A., regular A.A. meetings are a fixture, and well-informed speakers conduct weekend seminars on the spiritual aspects of recovery, the history of Alcoholics Anonymous, and other topics of interest to the AAs and their families and relatives who often travel far to attend. I was honored to be one of the invited speakers for eight years, and was allowed complete freedom to tell about the Bible, Oxford Group, Shoemaker, Quiet Time, and other roots of the international A.A. fellowship founded in Akron by Bill W. and Dr. Bob Smith in June of 1935.

Wilson House sits immediately adjacent to the little white East Dorset Congregational church on the green where Bill Wilson, his sister, his parents, and his maternal and paternal grandparents were regulars; and where Bill acquired a large chunk of his Christian upbringing—having to do with salvation, the Word of God, conversion to God through Jesus Christ, and the importance of prayer and obedience to the will of God. In fact, Wilson’s paternal grandfather Willie Wilson, a drunkard, one of the founders and officers in the church, and a man despairing in his alcoholism, was completely delivered on a nearby mountain top where he cried out to God, had a dramatic spiritual experience, gave testimony at the church pulpit, and never touched liquor again for the remaining eight years of his life.

Most of this, of course, is covered in my book, The Conversion of Bill W.: More on the Creator’s Role in Early A.A. But as my twenty-two years of investigation, research, and travel have disclosed, there much more relevant A.A. spiritual history to be learned, not only at the Wilson House, but at the nearby Burr and Burton Academy in Manchester where Bill attended for four years. In addition, Ozzie and Bonnie refurbished the Griffith House located on the other side of the little church. And that home is where Bill Wilson was raised by his grandparents Fayette and Ella Griffith. Griffith House is also part of the major attraction of East Dorset. This building has been converted into a beautiful library and archival treasure where thousands and thousands of books, pictures, pamphlets, news articles, letters, papers, manuscripts and historical materials relating to the Christian roots of early A.A. are located.

Ozzie Lepper lived to see his dream fulfilled, and Bonnie Lepper continued to carry out Ozzie’s vision, manage the properties, and bless the visitors. And not long ago, Bonnie remarried and became the wife of her present husband, becoming Bonnie Burke as I know her today.

As time permits and the interview proceeds, Bonnie will tell us some of the following: (1) where  she was born and raised, about her family and children, her education and religious faith, and her present status at Wilson House. (2) The story of Ozzie Lepper, what he did,  how she met and helped him, his death and her remarriage. (3) The development, mission, and activities of Wilson House-from the ground up, labors, accomplishments, honors, present situation, and the role of the Griffith House and Library next door. (4) Day in day out activities at Wilson House with family meals, volunteers, morning Quiet Time, AA meetings, Speakers and seminars, other meetings, the accomodations, celebrations, and the life of the "inn" keepers. (5) Her understanding of the mission and vision of Wilson House, of Griffith House, of the Library, of its steady stream of visitors including AAs and Al-Anons, and of its independence of Alcoholics Anonymous World Services. (6) Property needs in terms of contributions, historical items, and in-kind donations, plus volunteers. (7) Wilson House as it stands today, plans for the future,

and its relationship to Christian Recovery and A.A. History information. (8) Her Thank you's to the many who have touched her life, the lives of those at Wilson House, and the wonder and appreciation of the visitors.

Ozzie Lepper and his wife Bonnie were my friends for many years. They encouraged my historical research and writing, hosted my seminars, funded my long trips from Maui to Vermont, welcomed the donation of thousands of my historical findings, made me feel at home on the premises, and regularly inspired me with the Christian faith, love, and service. It will be a pleasure to hear Bonnie Burke provide us with this talk.

Gloria Deo

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