MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — William Westman sought help from Alcoholics Anonymous in 1969, while working for the Minneapolis coin-making company Wendell’s.
“Him and mom had just split up for a while and he came to his senses and started going to A.A.,” said his daughter, Kathy Waller. “They got remarried and it was happily ever after.”
Westman designed a medallion for Wendell’s in 1973 that would serve as a reminder of the choice to become sober — and the strength needed to stay that way.
He added the words to the “Serenity Prayer” to the back of the medallion.
“The coin has a raised center, and what that does for you is when you have it in your pocket, you can put your hand in there and tell it from your other coins,” said his daughter, Shelley Johnson. “So it’s anonymous but it’s there and it’s your strength.”
The raised-center anniversary medallion went on to become a bestseller for Wendell’s. The company struggled to keep up with the demand.
“In order for this innovation to happen, he had to bring not only his strengths as a person, which were his marketing and sales skills, but he had to bring his human foibles, his alcoholism, to the table, too,” Johnson said.
Westman went on to travel the country with his wife, speaking at A.A. meetings and becoming a sponsor to many people, including his daughter, Karen Semmler.
“He was always there for me and I truly believe I wouldn’t be here today if it hadn’t been for him,” Semmler said. “You couldn’t ask for a better example, there’s nothing he wouldn’t do for me.”
Karen says her dad had a way with words when talking about alcoholism. She’s been sober for 37 years.
“He started out by taking me to meetings,” Semmler said. “I didn’t have to live like that anymore, because it was sure hell.”
His daughters are left with many boxes of their dad’s personal belongings. But what they cherish the most are memories of a man who did what he could to help others find peace.
William Westman was 84 years old when he died Saturday. His funeral is Thursday night at 7 p.m. at the Washburn McReavy funeral home in Columbia Heights.
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