William Wilber, 75, of Manchester passed away at home in Manchester surrounded by family on July 29, 2016. Bill was the loving husband of Jan Wilber (1939 to 2003), with whom he shared 37 years of marriage. Together, they had two children, Jonathan Wilber of Gloucester and Catharine (Catie) Wilber of Boston. Bill was born in Salem, Mass., to the late William Wilber II and Sallie (Snow) Wilber. A member of Salem High’s Class of 1959, Bill went on to attend Vesper George School of Art in Boston before beginning his optical career in Manhattan where he worked for contact lens pioneer Obrig Labs, teaching interns to fit cataract contact lenses.
Mr. Wilber owned and operated See Labs in Manchester, fitting prescription diving masks, and Lexington Optical Associates in Lexington, serving those and surrounding communities over four decades, with a specialty in pediatric optical needs. Bill was known to friends and customers for his warmth, gift for conversation, and ability to connect over limitless common interests including reading, gardening, sailing, and cooking. Mr. Wilber was a 31st degree in Scottish rites and 32nd degree York Rites Mason. An avid storyteller, Bill shared fondly and gratefully his adventures at sea, sailing to Spain, the Caribbean and many other destinations with longtime friends. Bill’s quick, dry wit drew in all who had the pleasure of speaking with him, as he shared and entertained with pearls of new information resulting from his endless thirst for knowledge. Mr. Wilber approached his life with an adventurous and contagious spirit as a father, son, brother, and husband.
As a young man, Bill was diagnosed with kidney disease, and underwent a kidney transplant at Mass General Hospital in 1966, having received the donor kidney from his father. The Paul S. Russell, MD Museum of Medical History and Innovation is named in honor of Mr. Wilber’s transplant surgeon. Told he would likely not walk again, Mr. Wilber consistently defied medical odds at a time when transplant medicine was still developing, and long after.
Mr. Wilber is survived by his son, Jonathan and his wife, Melissa Wilber of Gloucester; his daughter, Catharine (Catie) Wilber of Boston; brother, Col. Harold Wilber U.S.M.C. Ret. and wife, Beverly Wilber of New Hampshire; sister, Sallie and her husband, Bill Cass of Salem; grandsons, William (Liam) and Ethan Wilber of Gloucester; and many nieces and nephews. Bill’s older brother, Drew, passed in 2000.
A Celebration of Life gathering will be held Friday, August 5, beginning at noon at the American Legion, 14 Church Street, Manchester, MA.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the National Kidney Foundation at .
The Salem News