Discovering his roots
Adopted at birth, banker Ron Wilson finds a family tree extending into Kentucky, Indiana
Gretchen Losi February 25, 2007
Coming into work at his bank, Ron Wilson thought it was going to be a typical day — then he checked his e-mail.
There he found a letter from Pauline Miller, 49, asking if he was her brother.
Wilson didn’t know what to make of it.
“I thought it was weird. You don’t get that kind of question every day,” Wilson said.
Photo by James Quigg / Staff photographer: Deanna and Ron Wilson at their home. Wilson knew he was adopted for several years, but only recently learned he has eight other biological siblings.
Since he was a boy, Wilson, president of Desert Community Bank, knew he was adopted. Once he and Miller began conversing, it was established they did, in fact, share the same biological mother — Lilly Luster.The realization that Miller had found her brother thrilled her.
“I think it’s absolutely great. I’ve been wanting to find him. It’s been a long struggle,” she said.
Luster gave birth to eight children in a small mining town in the hills of Kentucky. Wilson said the family had little money, forcing Luster to give three of her children up for adoption.
Wilson knew all of this and even spoke to his birth mother several years ago after she made contact.She introduced herself and asked him for forgiveness — which for Wilson, a man of faith, was an easy gift to offer.
“Times were tough. I had no problem forgiving her,” he said.
But out of respect for his adoptive parents, he had no desire to pursue any type of relationship.
Since then his adoptive parents have passed away along with his birth mother. And now Wilson is being given the opportunity to meet his biological siblings — except one.
Donald Nantz, the fourth child, was also put up for adoption, served in Vietnam and died in his 40s from pneumonia, Wilson said. Born between 1945 and 1964, Wilson’s siblings were Roy Nantz, Geraldine Nantz, Roger Nantz, Donald Nantz, Willard Nolan, Pauline Nolan-Miller; and Elizabeth and Jackie for whom no last name was available.
Because the new relationship is in its early stages, Wilson knows little about his siblings.
He knows Elizabeth, the second youngest, was the third and final child of Luster’s to be put up for adoption.
She is now a registered nurse living in Corbin, Ky. His youngest sister, Jackie, and her husband, a post office worker, own a business in Indiana where Pauline Miller also lives.
Wilson and his children are looking forward to connecting with them.
“They’re real excited. They’re a bunch of aunts, uncles and cousins to them,” Wilson said.
While excited about the prospects of getting to know his family, it’s not something Wilson said he felt a longing for while growing up.
His adoptive parents made sure he lacked nothing in the form of love, support, a strong Christian foundation and, most importantly, a true sense of identity.
“I never had a desire to seek out my birth family,” Wilson said. “I felt I knew who I was. My parents gave me that.”
His father, Calvert Clem Clay Wilson, was a barber by profession and his mother, Elaine Rose Wilson, was a homemaker. Wilson said he grew up lower middle class in an 800-square-foot home, the last one in the neighborhood to have a color television.
Interestingly, Wilson’s adoptive father was from the same part of Kentucky as his birth family. He says had he been raised in the hills of Kentucky, he wouldn’t be a bank president today. He shared a story that depicts the mentality of the area as reminiscent of the olden days in Deadwood.
His adoptive grandfather, a moonshiner at the time, found Christianity and became the town’s sheriff. This was to the dismay of much of the family, who were still more fond of their moonshine than prayer on Sundays.
While burning down one of the stills, a cousin fatally shot the grandfather between the eyes. The cousin was soon shot and killed himself by an uncle.
“It’s a typical illustration of the mountain environment I would have grown up in,” Wilson said.
That combined with Luster telling Wilson that had abortion been legal at the time of his conception, he would likely have never been born, only reinforces his belief that God did indeed have a purpose for Wilson in this world.
“It was all part of God’s plan. The fact I wasn’t aborted and was adopted ... there was a purpose,” Wilson said. “If I hadn’t left Kentucky, I would have never been a banker.”
He got his start in banking in 1972 where at 4 p.m. he would go to the desks of the bankers and empty their ash trays.
His father never missed work, so throughout high school and college, Wilson never missed a class. And in 34 years of banking, Wilson said he has never taken a single sick day.
Wilson said that God had a purpose for his life, and it was through His grace that he is where he is today.And it’s because of where he is today that allowed Miller to find him.
His birth family had his name and knew he was in banking, so Miller got on the Web to trace him. She stumbled along an article about an award a “Ron Wilson” had won — and it had a photo.
It was through this Web site that Miller found the e-mail address that initiated their reconnection.