Tribute to Ozzie Lepper
Ozzie Lepper passed on November 28th after his difficult bout with cancer. His family were at his side. And he is at rest. His life is to be celebrated as a blessing to thousands.
There will be letters and communications aplenty by those who knew him and those who knew of his immense service to Almighty God and His son Jesus Christ. And, of course, by those who knew of his dedication to the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous. My words will be few though I knew him as friend, as a supporter, as a strong like-minded believer, and as a great enthusiast for the quest for the history of Alcoholics Anonymous and the preservation and display of its evidences in the town of Bill Wilson’s birth—East Dorset, Vermont. That little village glows because of Ozzie’s extraordinary vision and work as he labored alongside his beloved wife Bonnie.
I wish to single out first The Wilson House where Ozzie labored long and hard to restore this birthplace of Bill W. to the lovely memorial and friendly inn and meeting place it is today. Always bright with red paint. Always trimmed with white paint. And always lighted to the maximum as a beam of hope for those who visited in thankfulness for A.A. and their sobriety and those who met there in meetings, panels, and conferences. Ozzie made it clear to me that the Wilson House was to be a place where thanks to A.A. could be celebrated. Thousands visited there. And Bill and Lois Wilson are buried nearby.
Next, I wish to point to the Griffith Library. This restored white building lies across the street from the Wilson House on Village Street. Bill Wilson was raised there by his grandfather Fayette. Ozzie and Bonnie had a dream of seeing this building become the repository for a huge body of books, articles, pamphlets, correspondence, manuscripts, and papers—as well as paintings, photographs, audio tapes, films, video tapes, and memorabilia of the temperance era and A.A.’s history and spiritual roots. And so it became. I was there at its Grand Opening this year, and both Ozzie and Bonnie were there to see it become a reality. It holds probably the largest collection of A.A. history items in the United States, other than what might be in the Library of Congress. It is not just an archive. Nor is it just a library. It was and is, as Ozzie and Bonnie intended it to be, a place where history is accessible, easily seen, readily studied, and faithfully preserved. Ozzie made it clear to me that the Griffith House was to be a place where thankfulness to the God for His hand in A.A. could be observed.
Now for my own small part in Ozzie’s rich life: In 1995, Ozzie and Bonnie met with me in a hotel lobby in San Diego during the International A.A. Convention there. They came for tea. They sat across from me—each with a Bible in front of them on the table. They asked me if I would give seminars each year at the Wilson House where the truth about Yahweh our Creator, Jesus Christ His son, the Bible, and their relationship with A.A. would be freely told, truthfully reported, and faithfully recorded. And, except for the year of my heart surgery, that seminar has taken place each year, including this year. Ozzie gave me complete freedom of expression. And I usually wrote a new book on some aspect of A.A. history to review and mark the historical topic. This privilege and opportunity will be treasured by me for a long time to come.
A word about the Christian faith of both Ozzie and Bonnie. Ozzie told me that he and Bonnie met when Ozzie placed an ad saying he wished to meet a lady who loved the Lord. And he did, and she did. They were Bible students, church attenders, and frequent in their prayer observances. They were a team which unabashedly held forth their Christian convictions, knowing that these were part and parcel of much in early A.A. life. They instituted a Quiet Time each morning where there was Bible reading, prayer, and meditation as in A.A.’s pioneer days. And Ozzie asked for a blessing at the noon meals. I believe those of all faiths felt comfortable there; and people of all faiths were both visitors, guests, speakers, and in audiences. For me, Ozzie Lepper has been one of those wonderful people in A.A. who gives you strength, courage, and the determination to be of service to God and others and to do it openly without charge or hesitation.