When I was freelancing for the Kansas City Star, I had an assignment one very cold December morning to take some feature photos at a local high school?s holiday craft fair. The feature editor wrote only one note on my assignment sheet. I was to look for a potter? who would have his wheel set up at the school and be making new pieces.
After meeting and photographing some of the crafters in the gym, I headed to the lobby and found Bill Wedekind, working at his potter?s wheel,? along with his wife who was selling his finished pieces. I wasn?t prepared for what I saw. Bill, a veteran, had been severely injured in a bombing raid while serving as a Marine in Vietnam. In that bombing, his skull was shattered and he lost his sight, along with both hands and forearms. After spending months recovering in military hospitals, he returned to his grandmother?s home in Kansas. Bill?s grandmother told him that he was going to have to find a way to make a living and she was going to teach him to be a potter. It was clear that Bill and his grandmother had achieved their goal. At this humble high school craft fair, I watched this artist make beautiful pitchers and bowls, without hands or the advantage of being able to see what he was making.
Bill and I spoke quite a bit, in between me taking pictures and him finishing another one of his pieces. He told me that it was his Marine training that gave him the discipline and courage to face and make the best of the mental and physical obstacles he faced. He also told me that he was thankful for what had happened to him. He said, ?I would never have become the man I am today if I hadn?t had to face all of this?. I continue to be inspired by this kind, brave and talented man, Bill Wedekind.