Hatteberg's People - Bill Wedekind

By: Larry Hatteberg Email
By: Larry Hatteberg Email

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On Hatteberg’s People, I meet a lot of folks, but seldom have I ever met anyone who has overcome life’s tragedies like Bill Wedekind. Now this optimistic Kansan has no reason to be that way. His life took a mean turn. But Bill took his Marine training to heart and is now inspiring all who meet him.

“Just about anything can be overcome, as long as you are will to work hard to do it.”

Near Westmoreland, Kansas in a deeply rural setting, Bill Wedekind is contemplating the rest of his life.

“Normally, what I do when I relax is puff on my pipe and drink my coke and enjoy the breeze.”

It is a gorgeous summer day, but Bill doesn’t see that. He’s blind and he has no hands.

“What happens – happens. You can’t change it. It is your lot in life. Get used to it and make the best of it, which is what I had to decide to do…to make the best of it.”

He came from a family of Marines, but it was in Vietnam, near Da Nang where he encountered a booby trap.

“The funny thing is, I was still conscience, if you can believe it. God kind of protects you once in a while. Sometimes it is best not to remember things…and I think this is one of those times.”

You might think, no sight, no hands, why go on. But you haven’t met Bill.

“The choice is either to live or die and dying seemed like quitting and that just doesn’t fly with this kid. You know, you get an extra forty years that you didn’t expect, that you probably shouldn’t have gotten, you can’t help but be grateful for it.”

In a moment that would change his life, his grandmother suggested he become a potter. Blind and no hands and she suggests pottery?

“I was a little afraid grandma had lost her mind because I was just barely functioning then. But I tried it and I’ve been successful at it now since 1970 and love it. The impossible can be done. You just have to work harder at it.”

Like all of us, Bill has sometimes wanted to give up.

“You just want to quit. You say forget it. I’m tired of it all. I did think about just checking out, but then I couldn’t figure out a way I could do it….so, I was stuck," Wedekind says, laughing.

But he never gave up. His work as a master potter is testament to his beliefs.

He is one of those unique men, forged by war, whose Marine training perseveres. If he could, he says, he’d be in Iraq right now with his fellow marines.

“That type of environment inspired self discipline and confidence.”

But his mission now is to mold the lives of others like he molds the clay.

“You just take what is given to you and make the best of it. I think that is what it is all about.”

While Bill loves his work as a potter, he also is branching out to become a motivational speaker. With his experience, his words and thoughts have the ability to change lives.

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