Bill Sears was born on March 28, 1911 in Aitkin, Minnesota. At 18 months old his father took him to the Aitkin train station to pick up his aunt. Bill’s wife, Marguerite, later wrote:
As Bill related the story to me, he and his father stood hand-in-hand on the platform. Their ears perked up at the sound of the whistle and they strained their necks as they watched the train chug into sight and sigh to a stop.
Scanning the train, unsure from which car his aunt would alight, the young lad's focus suddenly locked on a man looking out from one of the exits. Ethereal in appearance, the stranger was a vision in white: flowing ankle-length robe, turban, and long, snowy beard to match. Never had the youngster seen anyone like him-not even in picture books.
Mesmerized by the sheer force of the gentleman's presence, the child stood stock still for a few moments, then tugged excitedly at his father's coat, in an unsuccessful attempt to draw his attention to the object of his fascination. But his father's immediate and sole concern lay with the aunt. Her arrival had gone unnoticed by the child whose gaze had not wavered from the sight of the unusual personage to whom he seemed magnetically drawn. The spell broke with the next blow of the whistle.