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America’s Angels: Life Lived Willie’s Way

When Willie Wilson began losing his eyesight and eventually his hearing too, his dreams of a sports career faded. But he never gave up on achieving his goal of an independent life.

Chicago native Willie Wilson was once Mr. Popular at school; a good athlete with an outgoing personality, he had big dreams. But suddenly, he began losing his eyesight and eventually his hearing too. His dreams faded and his sense of purpose left him.

But as detailed in Diana Aydin’s profile in the April 2016 issue of Guideposts, Spruce Manor, an apartment community designed for individuals with disabilities and operated by Volunteers of America, returned to Willie the independence he feared he’d never again experience. 

Guideposts: Willie Wilson in his home at Spruce Manor, an apartment community for people with disabilities.

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 A brain tumor cost Willie his sight and hearing by age 21, dashing his dreams and leaving him uncertain of his future.

Guideposts: Willie is able to navigate his home in Spruce Manor on his own.

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When he first lost his sight and then his hearing, Willie gave in to despair, but his grandfather told him, “You can’t see or hear as well as others, but you can do anything you set your mind to.”

Guideposts: Willie reads sign language by holding an interpreter's hand as she signs.

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Willie challenged himself to learn American Sign Language so he could communicate with others by feeling their hands.

Guideposts: Willie cooks his meals and does his own laundry.

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Willie, who was still living in his childhood bedroom in his folks’ home, longed for independence, but wasn’t sure how to achieve it.

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Guideposts: Willie’s home, Spruce Manor, was specifically designed for people with disabilities.

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His answer came when an acquaintance  told him about Spruce Manor, an apartment community in Jacksonville, Illinois, that is run by Volunteers of America of Illinois. Spruce Manor is specifically designed for people with disabilities.

Guideposts: Willie cleans the kitchen after dinner.

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With a home of his own and the independence he longed for, Willie is once again Mr. Popular. His signing is improving every day and his sense of humor is a hit with the Manor’s staff and his fellow residents. “God has truly guided me here,” Willie said. “I’m able to take care of my own business. I’m living life my own way now–Willie style.”

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