"Bill W. Day" Celebrates AA Co-Founder

"Bill W. Day" Celebrates AA Co-Founder

By May Wilkerson 06/11/12

Hundreds gathered at Bill Wilson's grave yesterday on the 77th anniversary of the movement he pioneered.

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Bill W's final resting place in Dorset, VT.
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Bill Wilson is known simply as "Bill W." among members of Alcoholics Anonymous—the organization he co-founded with "Dr. Bob" Smith in the 1930's; anonymity is one of AA's 12 Traditions, "ever reminding [members] to place principles before personalities." And although meetings are autonomous and "self-supporting," Bill W. is revered as a hero by many in the AA community. So on the first Sunday of June each year, hundreds gather at his grave in a small cemetery near his birthplace in East Dorset, VT to pay respects and show gratitude. This past weekend marked the 77th Anniversary of AA, which Bill and Dr. Bob founded on the principle that by helping others to stay sober, they could stay sober themselves. In the past nearly-eight decades, AA has become a global movement with millions of members. Although some question its merits, many others rely on it to stay clean and rebuild their lives. 

"I have great respect for Bill and everything he's done," AA member Dennis said this weekend at the annual "Bill W. Day" gathering. "It's not just not drinking; it's about living a different life, becoming a different human being." Another member, Dick, who helped organize the event, says people will leave notes at his grave throughout the year; and many also leave their "sobriety chips" (coins AA members receive to mark periods of continuous sobriety). About 200 gathered at this year's event—which opened similarly to a traditional AA meeting, with members reading AA's 12 Steps and 12 Traditions, followed by an introduction: "My name is Liz, and I am an alcoholic". "Hi Liz," responded the group in unison. They then recited AA's "serenity prayer"—a fixture in meetings for decades: "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference."