Sangha News For very occasional news on the sangha.
12-11-05 - An obituary on our dear friend and doctor, Bill Wenner, written by Charles Page of Carmel at the request of the family. Thank you Charles. - DC
William "Bill" Wenner, Respected Doctor/ Surgeon, Monterey Peninsula Community Leader, and Recipient of Lay Zen Buddhist Ordination, Passes Away
by Charles H. Page
The World, our Monterey Peninsula Community and a raft of friends throughout the Country, lost a remarkable and wonderful individual when Dr. William "Bill" Wenner passed away on November 24, 2005 at his last residence in Volcano, Hawaii.
Bill was a respected doctor and general surgeon who lived and practiced on the Monterey Peninsula from 1957 to 1980. He was a community leader, joining the Board of Trustees of Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula "CHOMP," its Staff and other community leaders with shovels turning over the first spades of earth for the foundation of the new World Class, spectacular building which is now home of our Community Hospital.
Bill was President of CHOMP Medical Staff in 1966. When taking office as President, Bill eloquently summed up that which CHOMP means to this community: He said: "To me, the outstanding thing about Community Hospital is not the building or the beautiful physical site or even the obviously skilled people who work there. It is the esprit of the hospital!"
He served for five years as Trustee on the Pacific Grove School Board, was active with the Council on Alcoholism and raised funds for Beacon House.
Bill loved Tassajara Hot Springs and hiked into Tassajara many times from Chews Ridge. When the San Francisco Zen Center acquired Tassajara in 1967 Bill became a one person medical support system for the community of Buddhist priests, students and staff.
As a non-paid medical volunteer he made sure that anyone at the remote community who had a medical problem received care, either from him or from a specialist who Bill would contact on behalf of the patient. Because of the remoteness and inaccessibility of Tassajara Bill arranged for a helicopter to evacuate an individual with an emergency. He then worked with the Zen Center to put in a safe helicopter pad at Tassajara; for emergencies.
Bill treated everyone who sought his help whether they could afford to pay or not. He never charged for his health care and other services to the Tassajara community from 1967 until he moved to Guam in 1980 to take a position as doctor, Training Physician and Teaching Surgeon at Guam National Hospital. While there for years, he accepted surgical interns from the Shiga University of Medical Science in Japan ( Shiga and Michigan where Bill went to Medical school were "sister" states) so that the interns could spend two to three months with him studying American operating room procedures.
In his devotion and commitment to medical care and support of the Zen Center and Zen students living in Monterey County Bill developed an understanding of and interest in Zen Buddhism. In the year before his death Bill received Lay Ordination from Peter Schneider, a Zen Buddhist Priest and one of first heads of Tassajara Zen Center. Lay Ordination requires taking vows to live by Zen Buddhist precepts and making a commitment to live life as a Buddhist. As a Lay Ordained Buddhist, Bill was entitled to wear a Rakusu, a miniature version of a Buddhist Monk Robe that is worn over a person's chest.
David Chadwick, a Zen Buddhist Priest, and author of the definitive book on Suzuki Roshi, the Icon Japanese Zen Buddhist Priest who was the beloved teacher of many generations of Zen students at Tassajara, had this to say about Bill Wenner: "Bill was our doctor and friend but also he was a teacher who helped us to deepen our understanding of community and caring. He's been gone from this area for twenty-five years but he always kept in touch. We'll miss Bill and always treasure the gift of having known him."
Bill was born in Toledo, Ohio on June 12, 1926, attended Swarthmore College in Philadelphia and the University of Michigan Medical School. His internship and surgical residency was at the University of Michigan Hospital, Ann Arbor, Michigan. He served in the Navy on the Carrier "Lake Champlain off Korea during the Korean Conflict.
He is survived his wife, Cynthia "Cynee" Gillette Wenner of Volcano, HI; his daughter Julie Wenner of Polson, Montana; his son Bill Jr. and his wife Catherine Wenner, of Monterey, his son Henry Wenner of Monterey and a grandson Chris Wenner of Tucson, Arizona.
Bill will always be remembered by his family and many friends for his sparkling smile and personality, his incredible enthusiasm for life, and for his amazing generosity in donating his time, energy and talents and whatever resources he had to whomever had needs! Bill was the kind of person who, if still alive, and not ill, would be in New Orleans, administering medical care, and human nourishment to those in need. That was who he was!
Bill would have been 80 years old on June 12, 2006. Bill's life will be celebrated on or about his 80th Birthday in 2006. An announcement will be made about the date, time and location so that his family and many friends can celebrate his life and share their experiences.
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