Keyboard was focus, but Hager City/Bay City pastor found new callingBill Wilson assumed the pastorship at Svea and Tabor Lutheran churches in Hager City and Bay City last month.
By: Bill Kirk, Pierce County Herald
HAGER CITY—Although music and computers are still part of his endeavors, Bill Wilson has turned to the ministry in later life.
Wilson, who assumed the pastorship at Svea and Tabor Lutheran churches last month, can claim two careers related to keyboards first. He was originally trained as a musician and eventually educated as a computer programmer, he said Wednesday, yet there were elements of his ultimate calling along the way.
“I asked for piano lessons when I was in fifth grade,” he said about his early musical interest.
His siblings had already been encouraged to take such lessons by their late mother, Beulah, a music fan herself, but they didn’t continue very long. However, he persisted and found a lifelong pursuit.
“I remember the first piece I ever played with two hands,” he said of a milestone for the instrumentalist, noting he switched from piano to pipe organ.
The Philadelphia native’s father, William Sr., had a dance band, an added musical influence on him, he said. Moreover, the younger Wilson was bolstered by getting college scholarships for which he competed in high school. He headed for a college in Holland, Mich., affiliated with the family’s church, the Reformed Church of America. After obtaining a four-year liberal arts degree there, he got a masters degree at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y.
At 50,000 population, Holland seemed small to the big-city dweller, he said. He especially recalled frequent inquiries to the college students about directions to the Tulip Festival, from visitors who’d been sidetracked on campus, even into the dorm buildings.
Between Michigan and New York, he expanded his worldly experience and realized an additional opportunity for that expansion when he was drafted into the Army, he said. Military duty took him to Brooklyn, N.Y., then to Anchorage, Ak., where he served as a chaplain’s assistant.
It was an early inkling of what was to come, though not right away.
“I went to the seminary at age 42,” he said.
From Rochester, he ended up in Austin, Minn., accepting a position as director of music at St. Olaf Lutheran Church, Wilson said. The 4,500-member church had four choir directors; he was also its organist. He played at 50 weddings annually, on average, and up to 75 funerals one year.
“It was a good way to hone my skills as a practical musician,” he said, explaining he couldn’t be satisfied with a narrow repertoire at the church.
While in Austin over four years, he became acquainted with the family of his future wife, who introduced them, he said. Today, he and Nan have two sons, Chris and Geoff, both in the Twin Cities.
Read more in the print version of the Herald July 15.