Bill Wedekind is the only known blind, bilateral double-hand amputee potter in the world. Born in Manhattan, Kansas in 1949 and the first of five brothers, Bill was inspired to follow the family tradition and join the U.S. Marine Corps in 1967, expecting it to be a life-long career path. On May 25, 1968 his life permanently changed course when he was sent to inspect a defensive perimeter in Vietnam. Bill has never been entirely sure what transpired next other than the fact that he lost both eyes, one ear and two hands. Doctors didn’t expect him to survive the airplane ride home, but he surely did. His Marine spirit kept him fighting to stay alive. One of Bill’s favorite quotes is from Henry Ford who said, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right!” It’s how Bill chose to live his life regardless of any and all challenges that confront him.
Many operations followed, two of which were Krukenburg procedures; the first in 1969 and the second in 1973 at Hines VA Hospital in Chicago. Prosthetics were unsuccessful for Bill and he often says Krukenburg was the best decision he ever made. Bill returned from Vietnam a changed man – physically, mentally and spiritually. It was his grandmother, Myrtle Finchon, who suggested pottery as a possible career. She was quite an accomplished potter in her own right and introduced him to the basics of the craft. He studied under Lee Davis in 1970-71 at Kansas State University. Bill greatly enjoyed working with and learning from Yoshi Akito and Angelo Carzio as well.
Bill married in 1969 and had two beautiful children, Scott and Robin. In June of 1989, Bill married his second wife, Diane, a woman he knew and admired from high school days. She had five children from previous relationships and Bill embraced them all cheerfully. “They came pre-packaged and fully assembled,” he often quips!
Bill has accomplished many things one would not expect from a blind, double-hand amputee, not the least of which is earning an advanced degree license as a ham radio operator and building race cars as a hobby. He also fearlessly uses power tools whenever he feels the need to build another shelf to hold his pottery.
In 1976, the Disabled Veterans Association honored Bill as the Arkansas Disabled Vet of the year. He was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star with Combat V in 1968.
In 2010, Bill made the decision to relocate to San Antonio, Texas after visiting for a few speaking engagements in the area. “I didn’t meet a single person I didn’t like,” is his response when asked about his decision to move. Pastor Jones at the Leon Valley Baptist Church and their community have since become family for this potter turned motivational speaker.
Bill has given numerous lectures and pottery demonstrations for a wide array of groups, including disabled veterans, elementary and college students, a minister’s group, correctional facility and pottery guild. He believes that if he can accomplish what he has in his own life, then anyone can succeed in achieving their life’s ambitions. It is Bill’s intention and desire to avail himself to the many young men and women returning from the Middle East, troubled teens or anyone else who needs guidance dealing with life’s many challenges.