DAYTON, Ohio – On the same Wednesday, March 8 morning the “Donor for Life” journeys of two very like-minded men nearly converged at the Dayton Community Blood Center. Less than an hour apart, Beavercreek’s Robert Williams and Kettering’s William “Bill” Wilson made their milestone 100th lifetime blood donations.
If they had met, they might have shared stories of wood and steel. Aviation is in Bill’s blood and he has dedicated his life to honing metals into airplane parts. Robert was also dedicated to aviation during an active duty and civil service career as an Air Force engineer. Now he shapes hardwood into artisan furniture.
Bill, at 79, is four years senior to Robert. Both men enjoy active lives in retirement. Both have trim, slight frames and both chose size “medium” “Donor for Life – 100 LTD” jackets with room to spare. Robert is building a custom bedroom suit; Bill still does mechanical design engineering and loves downhill skiing.
Both are whole blood donors. Both are blood type O positive, the universal donor for all positive Rh blood types. Both are CMV-negative “baby donors,” which means they have not been exposed to the cytomegalovirus. Hospitals prefer CMV-negative units for children and to ensure safe transfusions to newborns.
Both reached the milestone of 100 lifetime donations on the same morning.
ROBERT WILLIAMS – DONOR FOR LIFE
Type O positive blood was in particular demand during the winter months, and Robert Williams is a donor who always answers the call. “I was actually eligible to make my 100th on Monday,” he said, “but since it rained the last two days I waited. I’m two days late!”
“It goes back a lot of years,” Robert said of the journey to his milestone. “I started in the military in ’66. I served four years active duty and finished as a captain. I was here at Wright-Patt and donated some at the base. I got out, and went back to work in the civil service, at the same desk, doing the same things, just with a change of clothes! I retired in July of 2008 with 41 years.”
Robert and his wife Susan have been married 25 years and have two children and five grandchildren. Susan is a physician at the Cleveland Clinic, which means they split time at two homes. After moving their bedroom furniture to Cleveland he began work on the replacements.
“I’m building a bedroom suite in cherry,” he said as he donated. “I started with the bedside table, since that was easy. I did the dresser then I’ll do the chest and finish with a headboard. I’ll probably go work on it when I’m finished here.”
Robert has had only one detour on his Donor for Life journey. He was deferred from donating for five years while being treated for prostate cancer. “I have been blessed with good health,” he said.
He remains dedicated to donating, “Because I can,” he said. “The need is there for it. I’m healthy and able to do it, so why not? I’ll put it on my schedule for two months from now. It will pop up and tell me it’s time go again.”
BILL WILSON – DONOR FOR LIFE
Bill Wilson says his father was destined to be a machinist “before he was born.” Bill learned everything about the skill from his father, who was also an inspiration to donate.
“You have to wait 56 days,” said Bill. “My dad was in the hospital and needed blood. It wasn’t enough days yet but I donated for him. That was in ’62.” Soon afterwards Bill lost his father to esophageal cancer.
As Bill prepared to make his milestone 100th donation Wednesday, he received some inspiration from his daughter. “My daughter called me yesterday and said she had just given her first apheresis donation,” he said. “She knew I was coming in to do my 100th.”
Bill and his wife Audrey have been married 21 years and have to two sons and two grandsons. “I moved to Dayton around 1974 and started donating then,” he said. “I moved to Oregon for about four years and came back.”
Bill’s father Matthew was born in Scotland. The story goes that Bill’s grandfather did a favor for a machinist, and the man promised that if he would return some day with his first son, he would teach the boy everything about the trade. Matthew became the man’s apprentice then took his machinist skills to America.
Bill became his father’s apprentice. He started out in his father’s machine shop then took his skills to aviation. He worked for Hartzell Propellers, Inc. for 12 years and McCauley Propeller Systems for 27 years.
Bill’s first wife was from East Liberty, Ohio and he remembers seeing construction of the nearby Valley Hi Ski Area in 1962. “That’s where I learned to ski,” he said. At age 40 he took up the sport at what is now called Mad River Mountain Ski Area, and served as a member of the Ski Patrol for eight years.
Bill has a calling to continue donating, and to keep skiing. He still journeys to big mountains in Oregon and Canada. “Skiing is good for your heart,” he said.