Bill and Caroline Pilgram: 76 years together

In the midst of all we're facing these days, we wanted to take time to share a beautiful story with you. Bill and Caroline Pilgram have connections to the early days of Walker Methodist, and they helped shape our community into the compassionate, vibrant place it is today. We hope you'll be inspired by learning a bit about their history, as well as ours.

When Bill Pilgram met Caroline—whose birthday was just eight days after his—he knew he’d spend the rest of his life with her. “I chased her,” he explained, “until she caught me.” They were married for 76 years.

Bill was born in Minneapolis. When his father died when Bill was seven, Bill’s mom moved the family from to North Dakota. Caroline was born and raised in South Dakota, where Bill eventually moved to attend the University of South Dakota. Even though they lived in the same state, they didn’t meet until Caroline came to Minneapolis for nurses school, where Bill was working as a janitor and dishwasher. She completed her training at Asbury Hospital, and the couple married soon after.

In 1940, Bill and Caroline married at Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church, where they both were active members. Caroline taught Sunday School for decades and was a member of the women’s circle. For 65 years, they led a couples group together. In fact, Bill—who turned 102 in 2019—is still a member and ushers every Sunday, just like he has for the past 80 years.

The church where they devoted most of their lives still sits on land donated by T.B. Walker, whose wife, Harriett, started the Bethany Home for Unwed Mothers, which became today’s Walker Methodist. Bill was good friends with the Walker’s son, Archie, but that’s not the only connection the Pilgrams have to Walker Methodist.

When Bill’s mother lived in the Health Center, Caroline started working at the deli and then eventually became a volunteer. She started working with the Auxiliary in 1973 and was honored for 30 years of service in 2003. During her time as a volunteer Caroline started what is now the Give a Little Gift Campaign, providing Christmas gifts to residents at Walker Methodist Health Center. Caroline dedicated time and energy to serve residents and supported Walker Methodist for many years.

Bill and Caroline were dedicated to supporting each other, too, and together they followed their dreams. Bill started his career in real estate and insurance but went back to school to become a lawyer, taking night classes and then working until he retired at age 75. When his career was stable, Caroline returned to her passion of nursing in 1962. Despite their impressive careers, Bill said some of his favorite memories were with his family. Bill and Caroline traveled to Hawaii multiple times, but their favorite, most memorable trips involved taking their whole family camping in their Shasta trailer.

Bill was by Caroline’s side until she passed away in 2017, and he now lives in Walker Methodist Place. Bill continues to serve at his church and is a beloved member of his communities. Bill and Caroline have three children, one grandchild, and three great-grandchildren.

Topics: Our Stories, Featured

Amy Weiss

Written by Amy Weiss

Walker Methodist storyteller and marketing assistant

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