Mary Ann

She is my oldest sister, born about eight years before I became the fourth of five children of Theodore and Margaret in Van Buren County, southeastern Iowa. Mary Ann was the first born, and she has always demonstrated an individualistic spirit. She is an avid reader, a loyal friend, a lover of fine china, a people-person, a devoted follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, a loving mother and grandmother, a leader by nature, and a consummate learner.

I could never begin to tell Mary Ann’s story; it so jam-packed full of life’s ventures and adventures. But I want to share a slice of it that might encourage someone reading this to “do right.”

When she graduated from high school in 1952, Mary Ann enrolled in Baptist Bible College of Springfield, MO. Arriving in Springfield, she had nothing and knew no one; but with her resourcefulness, she was able to quickly find a job, make a good friend, and meet teachers in this start-up Bible college who were willing to help her. That was the era when the likes of Jerry Falwell, Greg Dixon, and other notables from around the country were students in this Baptist Bible Fellowship college, and W.E. Dowell, David Cavin, G.B. Vick, Noel Smith, the Donnelsons, and other men and women of stature were leaders.

Mary Ann met and in 1954 would marry Tom Wilson, who attended BBC for a year before moving to Denver.  He was from Seymour, Iowa, and from his childhood dreamed of flying planes in the United States Air Force; but having enlisted, he was later discharged honorably for medical reasons. In his life after the Air Force, Tom worked for Continental Air Lines, Douglas Aircraft, and other employers, learning also to become a skilled craftsman as a watchmaker.  The Wilsons lived in Los Angeles, Denver, Charlotte, and finally in the greater Atlanta area. They enjoyed 56 years of married life until the Lord called Tom home, having battled Multiple Myeloma for about six years before being graduated to glory.

Four or five years into their marriage, Mary Ann was working at a Lincoln Mercury dealership, Kumpf Motor Car Company, in downtown Denver. An elderly gentleman came to her counter one day to pay his bill and pick up his car.  She asked him for his ID not having met him before and not knowing that he was one of the wealthiest men in the United States at that time, having made a fortune as a cattleman with a ranch in Kansas. He was a bit put out at first that she would ask him for identification, but soon realized that this friendly young lady was pretty naïve and just doing her job. He pulled out a stuffed wallet and showed Mary Ann about every form of ID she could have imagined. She saw at the end of that string of Diner’s Club cards a picture of his grandchildren which she commented on. That was the beginning of an acquaintance and friendship that would continue while Tom and Mary Ann were in Denver. 

In the course of time, the cattleman wanted to give Mary Ann a token of his appreciation for her friendship. He was going to be going on a trip, but before he left he thrust out a checkbook and asked her to write herself a check for any amount. He would never know how much it was. She was, of course, stunned. In no way had she ever thought of anything like that happening. She and Tom had been his guests at Denver’s most exclusive restaurant, and they had entertained him in their home.  They desired opportunities to witness to him about Christ, and their motive was ever and only to be genuine friends to an old man who did not have close family as a part of his life. They did not realize, at that time, that he was indeed one of America’s wealthiest people.  Mary Ann would not—could not—accept his generous offer, and as long as they were friends she never accepted any cash gifts from the Kansas cattleman.

I heard about that story and watched Mary Ann and Tom through the years. Mary Ann testified to her friend that she would always and only trust in the Lord to take care of her needs. Tom was a skilled craftsman and always had work. They lived in His presence, and their needs were always met. One could only guess what twists and turns life might have taken for the Wilsons, had they accepted this offer from a well-meaning friend. But Mary Ann has testified that it was never a temptation and that she was determined to trust God and depend on her husband to take care of her needs. And He has, to this day, never failed.  From the time when, penniless, she enrolled in Baptist Bible College until this present hour, she has lived a comfortable life—not luxurious but surrounded by some of her very best friends, BOOKS, and living in a beautiful home on top of a Georgia mountain. She and Tom have always been active in a local Baptist Church wherever they have lived, and they have always been generous to others when there has been a need that they could help meet. When one of our sisters who lived in Waterloo, Iowa, struggled with serious health problems that eventually claimed her life, Mary Ann, in her mid-80s, drove to Waterloo alone from her home in Georgia to care for her multiple times over the course of Nancy’s last years. Nothing has ever seemed out of the realm of possibility for Mary Ann to tackle. Her spirit is indomitable.

With eight years separating us, I have not always known her closely; but I have admired her and loved her for her love of life, people, Christ and His Word, and for her steadfast testimony. When she was a high-school student, she wrote a paper for one of her classes on “Protestantism Versus Catholicism.” She received a failing grade from the teacher, and I almost got a heart attack out of it as I was in the Catholic hospital recovering from an appendectomy when she—armed with bound copies of her thesis—visited me in the hospital. As she was leaving, she left a copy of the little red booklet on Protestantism v. Catholicism between the fingers of all the statues of Mary. I had visions of being rolled down into the basement of that hospital, where something very grisly would happen to me. But, that was Mary Ann. And still pretty much is. An individualist. But on the right side and for the cause of truth.  I am proud to call her my sister!

I thank my God upon every remembrance of you.” (Phil.1:3)

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