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William H. Wilson, 87, seller of construction materials

William H. Wilson, 87, of Newtown Square, a retired salesman of construction materials who taught young managers the tricks of the trade, died Friday, Dec. 2, of cancer at home.

William H. Wilson
William H. WilsonRead more

William H. Wilson, 87, of Newtown Square, a retired salesman of construction materials who taught young managers the tricks of the trade, died Friday, Dec. 2, of cancer at home.

Mr. Wilson enjoyed a successful career in the construction industry. He was a vice president at G & W.H. Corson Inc. until the company was sold to I.U. International in 1972.

He did consulting before joining Allan A. Myers Inc., a construction company in Worcester. The firm hired him in 1985 to help create a material sales division. Mr. Wilson was an expert in that field.

Michael Menkins, the director of sales, said he joined the Myers firm in 1990 as Mr. Wilson's boss.

"You're a fine young man," Mr. Wilson told him. "I'm going to teach you how to be a boss."

Among the lessons Menkins learned was that a person didn't have to go to college to succeed. "You build trust and you will be successful," Mr. Wilson told him.

Mr. Wilson may have been a "legendary salesman," as Menkins described him, but his knowledge went deeper. "He knew how to get the stone from the quarry and how to load it on ships to send it overseas," Menkins said.

Another great skill of Mr. Wilson's was networking. Each Pearl Harbor Day in December, he threw a luncheon for customers at the Brass Eagle in Gap, Lancaster County.

"It started out as 10, then 20, then 40 people, and by the time he left, it was over 100," Menkins said. "He made a lot of connections that are still with the company today. They were Bill Wilson's customers."

If someone did something that bothered him, Mr. Wilson never broached it in the office. "Let's take a ride," he would say to the offender.

He also knew how not to overstay his welcome. By the time Mr. Wilson retired in 2008, he told Menkins: "I can't give any more. You guys got it. I'm not going to waste your time, you don't need me."

A native of Easton, Mr. Wilson was the son of Mildred Howell and Dr. John Hunt Wilson.

He graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, N.H., and Amherst College in Amherst, Mass.

He played varsity basketball and baseball while at Exeter. After a stellar pitching career at Amherst, he signed as a lefthanded pitcher with the minor-league affiliate of the Boston Braves in Bradenton, Fla.

He never made it to baseball's major leagues, but he continued athletic pursuits throughout his life, playing competitive tennis and squash. He won many national hardball squash titles in matches throughout the eastern United States and Canada and held a national hardball squash ranking for years.

Mr. Wilson was a member of the Merion Cricket Club, Gulph Mills Golf Club, and the elite Jesters Club, an international group of squash players and other sportsmen in London.

His daughter Anne W. Fischer said Mr. Wilson was always the quintessential gentleman. "He never had a bad thing to say about anybody."

Besides his daughter, he is survived by his wife, Birgitta Swartling Wilson, formerly of Stockholm, Sweden; daughters Louise W. Dardaris and Elisabeth W. Hardon; eight grandchildren; and a brother.

A memorial service will be at 11 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 22, at Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church, 625 Montgomery Ave. Interment is private.

Contributions may be made to the American Swedish Historical Museum, 1900 Pattison Ave., Philadelphia, Pa. 19145, or to Lafayette College in Easton via