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Ernest Wilson—If You Want To Enough


Doctor Wilson continued his ministry for eleven more years after his return to Kansas City. He retired in 1976 at the age of eighty, having served for over sixty years.

His final years at Unity Temple on the Plaza were marked with his usual dignity and humor. There would be many witty and inspirational anecdotes to include in this book if only he had written them down. He told me one time that he tried to write of his last years of ministry but he was too close to it, meaning perhaps, that his perspective of all the things that happened was not yet clear. So, in the end, he decided that 1965 was the best time to end the book.

Mrs. Evelyn Bartlow, on the request of “the Temple’s” present minister, William Cameron (who was also one of Ernest’s assistants in Kansas City), compiled a large binder notebook stocked with information about the last years and sent it to me. She deserves much praise for such a grand effort, but I feel there is no way we could bring the people and events to life as Ernest could. Let it suffice to say that they were grand years filled with feasts and celebrations, important people, indispensable people, and sorrows too that helped to make the bright days brighter.

This book is being published without Ernest’s final approval, though he wrote the text. He would be overjoyed to know that it is finally in print. It meant a lot to him. He worked long and hard to get this book ready. It was most difficult for him to decide what and who would have to be omitted.

After his demise in 1982, we discovered two items he had written perhaps in 1926. He was not yet thirty and had not yet joined the staff at Unity School. I immediately wanted to include them because they reveal his origins. Ernest wanted this book to be inspirational and not merely memories (as grand as these are). These articles indicate that he rose to success and fulfillment from more humble beginnings than most assume.

Though he rarely mentioned family, he supported his mother as soon as he was able, and helped his father. When I first got to know him as a person, he was the main support of his sister, Josie, and her Alaskan “sourdough” husband, Alex. They lived in a comfortable little home of their choosing in Suquamish, across the Sound from Seattle, which he purchased for them. Alex proudly drove a jeep for supplies and visiting, which Ernest also gave them.

Many friends borrowed from him, and many repaid him. This was his private charity.

He faced private disasters with the same attitude he recommended to his Sunday congregation: “God will prevail!” Yet his personal life he rarely revealed. Hence we hope he does not mind too much that these very personal papers are included.

His memory, our memories, and those brought back by this book, and our love for him, should always urge us on, knowing that we can do anything if we want to enough.

Ronald and Beverly Potter

© 1984, by Ronald and Beverly Potter
All rights reserved.
Reprinted with permission.