As Ed Wilson approaches his 95th birthday, he has a long life of memories to look back on.
The U.S. Army veteran served during World War II and still remembers his days in Europe.
Then for 63 years, Wilson worked at Georgia Chair Co. until blood clots in both legs resulted in a double amputation at age 92. One leg was expected, the second leg was not.
Fortunately, the Jehovah’s Witness had his faith and a family — including his wife, four children, six grandchildren and five great-grandchildren — who have helped him make the most of his 94 years.
In each part of his life, Wilson tries to please God.
“Not taking life too seriously and trying to be pleased with whatever the good Lord lets you have,” are important to his longevity, he said.
Service to country
Born June 12, 1922, Wilson was the eldest of 11 children and grew up in Lumpkin County.
At 17, he was sent to 3C Camp or Civilian Conservation Corp. It was a public work relief program operated from 1933 to 1942 in the United States for unemployed, unmarried men from relief families as part of the New Deal program implemented by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, according to the National Park Service website (www.nps.gov).
“It was designed to help people who were poor but didn’t want to beg for it,” the Murrayville man said. “They wanted to do something for it.”
Wilson and other CCC men earned an average of $30 a month, the NPS website said. Meals, lodging, clothing and medical and dental care were all free. Therefore, Wilson kept $2 a month for himself and sent the rest back home to his family.
For his pay, Wilson fought forest fires in the Smoky Mountains.
After more than six months at 3C Camp, Wilson was drafted into the Army. During boot camp in Tennessee, he said he slept outside, experiencing some of the coldest weather he ever had.
“I can almost shiver thinking about it,” he said.
However, the worse was yet to come.
Tour of duty
During his service from 1941-1943 in Europe, one of his more frightening memories of the war happened when he woke up and did not know where he was.
“I didn’t know if we were behind the lines, in front of them or in them,” he said. “I felt pretty nervous then. Most the time I knew pretty well where I was and what was going on.”
His observations skills proved useful later.
While guarding camp one night, Wilson came across a lone German soldier and captured him. He received a special recognition for his efforts.
Wilson swelled with pride after mentioning this story, but pointed out he refused to rest despite any battle fatigue.
As a reward, Wilson was sent to Nice, France, when most of the fighting was over.
“It was like going to Hollywood,” he said. “It was where all the rich and famous people, the entertainers all lived.”
He relaxed on the beach and watched men cliff dive into the ocean. Later, he rented a bicycle and pedaled to a part of town he was warned to stay away from. The site sported fragrant flowers used for perfume. He was promptly told to leave and not return.
After the war, Wilson returned to Georgia and worked in various factories.
He also started a family, marrying his wife his wife, Ailene (also known as Lucy) in 1948. They had four children, Shirley Kirby, Judy Kirby, James Wilson and Angie Dills. All live near each other in Murrayville.
In 1951, Wilson started working at the Georgia Chair Co. He remained there producing chairs until his health forced him to retire in 2014.
After going into work one day in March, Wilson’s legs gave out. The cause was blood clots. The effect was the amputation of his right leg.
Before surgery, Wilson said he wasn’t sure if his leg would be amputated or if stents would be inserted to drain it. After surgery, his doctor told him it came down to a choice: Saving his life or limb.
But Wilson, who suffered from sores on the back of his left leg earlier in the year, got a second, unwelcomed surprise.
“The doctor said he cut the other one off,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it!”
His daughter, Judy, explained Wilson had circulatory problems in his legs.
“He doesn’t have diabetes,” she said, adding he was as “healthy as a horse.”
Wilson did not return to the chair factory, but his memories remain.
Looking back, though, Wilson said he wouldn’t change anything. He’d go back and choose furniture making as a career all over again.
Fueled by faith
Wilson survived his time during the war, flourished in his professional life and recovered from his amputations because of his spirituality, daughter Judy said.
“His spirituality and his steady meditation on the Bible has been a big thing toward his attitude,” she said. “He’s got that attitude. My mama would call it stubborn and bullheaded. But it’s got him where it’s at.”
Until the last few days before losing both legs, Wilson going house to house preaching and attending meetings four to five times a week.
Now he lives at Friendship Health Care Center in Cleveland.
Judy said her father has always looked for silver linings. And when others struggle to keep going, he pushes forward.
“I’m in awe of a lot of it,” Judy said of her father’s life. “I’m in awe of him period. What all he’s put up with and just endured. His endurance is just an inspiration, and I wish I could be more enduring and patient like him because he’s really been through some tough stuff.”