September 11, 2006

Meet — and remember — William E Wilson

Posted in 2996, 911 at 1:33 am by billdawson


[Note: This entry is my contribution to the “2996” tribute begun and coordinated by D.Challener Roe.]

I am pleased to introduce and to remember William Eben Wilson, whom I’ll refer to as “Bill” because it is clear that those who knew him called him Bill.

Bill was 55 years old on September 11, 2001. He worked as a maritime insurance broker for Aon Corporation at the World Trade Center in New York. That was his “9 to 5” existence, so to speak, but it’s clear to me that Bill would have preferred to spend more of his time out on the links. As the New York Times tribute to Bill indicates, Bill golfed regularly with his wife, Ann Payne, and the two shared similar handicaps. (Golf handicaps, that is!)

William E. Wilson had a handicap of 20, and his wife, Ann Payne, had a 22, and they played together nearly every weekend from April through October.

“On any given day, I could beat him or he could beat me,” Ms. Payne said, “and we loved playing together.”

Eight years ago, for his 50th birthday, they took a golf cruise through the Caribbean. It was his idea and he loved it — each day they got off their ship and played golf on a different island.

In his guestbook at, which appears to me to be the best of the 9/11 memorial sites, relatives, friends and colleagues of Bill Wilson have remembered him with many kind words. He was “a guy with a perpetual smile” who “always semed to be in good humor”. He “was a wonderful person and a friend” who “is missed and will never be forgotten.” He was “warm and ‘always up’.” He “inspired people with great charm and the boundless enthusiasm for both work and ‘play’ that he brought to life.” He was a “charismatic person” with a “wonderful outlook on life.” “You just felt better about things when in his company.”

Bill Wilson also knew his business. His “clients were also his friends, and he was a master and combining business and personal friendships in a truly seamless and sincere fashion.” One guest book contributor appreciates Bill as a kind of industry mentor: “Bill took me under his wing, taught me what I needed to now about the marine insurance business.”

An industry colleague writing at emphasizes that the industry is a people business — and a business many of whose people were taken on September 11th. (Aon itself lost 176 employees on that day.) She adds: “When it came to being a ‘people person’ Bill Wilson was one of the best I ever met.”

Another visitor at, describing himself as a “friendly competitor” in the industry, includes a photo from a golf outing in Maui just 9 months before that fateful day. Bill Wilson is on the left in this photo:

But of all the many touching tributes to Bill found at, my favorite is this one, written on 11 September 2003, which I show in its entirety:

Bill Wilson walked into my off-campus house and into my life, one sunny morning in January of 1964. He was a junior at the University of Dayton and I a freshman. Bill was truly my “first” love and very special. For two years we made many college memories. Through Bill, I also had the good fortune to meet and live with his wonderful sisters, Maureen and Jean, of which I have had a life long friendship.

On this Patriot Day, the second anniversary of his death, I fondly remember Bill. In my heart, I believe on that day of orror Bill Wilson surely died a hero.

Till we meet again,

Janet Rudy Gerrard

A visit to CNN.COM’s memorial pages shows that Bill and I perhaps shared something other than a great first name. It looks as though he and I both like cats. I’m always happy to come across other men who like cats, because some people (dog-loving bigots!) seem to think feline appreciation should be left to the fairer sex. Bill and I beg to differ. I stand by my three cats — Mimi, Monkey and Kitty — just as Bill stood by his cat:

I’m supported in my belief in Bill’s love for cats by the fact that the Aon Corporation memorial site indicates that contributions in Bill’s name could be made to the Cat Fanciers’ Association’s Disaster Relief Fund.

And so that’s precisely what I’ve done today, this 11th of September, 2006, on the five year anniversary of Bill’s passing. The CFA Disaster Relief Fund has a bit more in its bank account, in the name of William E. Wilson, golf lover, cat lover, insurance broker, husband, brother, cousin, mentor and, I’m sure, much, much more to the many people who miss him.

Please visit the 2996 web site to learn about and remember more of the thousands of people who, like Bill Wilson, lost their lives five years ago today.

1 Comment »

  1. billdawson said,

    (Test comment from Bill)

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