Boomer Style Magazine

Unsung Hero: Nell Wing, Bill Wilson’s Right-Hand Woman

Many in AA feel that God brings the right people into our lives, at the right time, and in the right way. This was certainly true of Nell Wing, who died on Wednesday, February 14, 2008.

She came to work at GSO in a temporary job in March 1947 and stayed until her retirement in 1982. Though a non-alcoholic, her devotion to AA became nearly absolute, and as the years passed she formed friendships with members throughout the world. She never married, and AA really became her extended family, with Bill and Lois Wilson as her surrogate parents.

Nell was 29 when she reported to work at GSO (then called the Alcoholic Foundation).  She had attended Keuka College in central New York state and served two years as a SPAR (a female Coast Guard sailor). She only wanted short-term employment until leaving for Mexico to study sculpture under the G.I. Bill.

But as she recalled later, “From the beginning, I was caught by the A.A. Fellowship, particularly by the caring. It was not so much a general ‘caring for our fellowman,’ but a one-on-one caring, a love for one another without thought of any reward.”

Mexico faded into the background, and she spent 35 years at GSO!  Nell served as receptionist and did other clerical work at GSO before becoming Bill’s secretary in 1950. Highly competent as a secretary, she also became Bill’s staunch defender, giving him support and reassurance when members wrote angry letters or when he became plagued by self-doubt and depression.

More than almost anybody, Nell knew how much Bill suffered when attacked by the very people who should have been grateful to him. After his death in 1971, she said she lost “my close friend and confidant, the big brother/father figure of my middle life.”

She then became AA’s first archivist, with responsibility for organizing and filing all the documents and other records of our history. Though not trained in library science, she quickly learned the essentials of archiving and set-up a logical system that works extremely well to this day. She also continued as Bill’s loyal advocate and carefully documented his specific contributions to AA’s origin, growth, and success.

Nell and Lois became even closer after Bill’s passing. Nell often spent weekends with Lois at Stepping Stones and became concerned that the older woman insisted on living alone though becoming increasingly frail. Lois’s passing in 1988 was another great loss in her life.

With a loving nephew as her guardian, Nell was a resident at a Sunrise Assisted Living home in New  Jersey.  Below is Nell’s death announcement from the General Service Office.

Nell Wing, Bill W’s Secretary, Passes On

It is with great sadness that we share the news that Nell Wing died on Wednesday, February 14, 2007 at 7:00 p.m. after a lengthy illness. Nell was 89 years old.

As most of you know, Nell was Bill W’s secretary and assistant for 17 years and a close friend and long-time companion to Lois W.  She worked at the General Service Office of A.A. from the beginning of 1947 until her retirement at the close of 1982, starting as a receptionist and later becoming secretary of A.A. World Services, Inc. Additionally, she served as G.S.O.’s first archivist for the last ten of her years at the office. The Archives opened in 1975.

We would like to take a moment to celebrate Nell’s life and share the following, which our G.S.O. Archivist, Amy Filitreau, provided:

From Markings, November/December 1983, when Nell announced her retirement in print: “…I hope to stay nearby; and never lessen interest in this fellowship, nor loosen the close bonds of friendship with my A..A. and Al-Anon friends. I’m forever grateful for this marvelous experience that began for me on March 3, 1947, at 415 Lexington Ave.,  New York City, in 3 small rooms of the Central Terminal Building. I have enjoyed and treasured every moment of it. I won’t say ‘goodbye:’ just want to extend my love and thanks to each one of you dear friends.”

In fellowship,
Eva Sanchez, G.S.O. Staff
Assistant Secretary
General Service Board