By Joselyn Watkins
It’s a pity that some of you didn’t meet Bill Williams when he and wife Betty lived at Lake Lure. But below is a sketch mostly written by him that will allow you to glimpse the fantastic nature of this most interesting gentleman who will be 90 years young in August.
“I was born in Faith, North Carolina in Rowan County with a population of 800 that is near Salisbury North Carolina on August 27, 1925. Daisy and Clarence Williams were my parents. She was a mother of eight (6 boys and 2 girls). I was the youngest of the litter. Clarence made a good living making monuments. Very hard work. He came home at the end of the day somewhat covered with rock dust. A lot of that dust settled in his lungs. He died from that.
I graduated from Duke University with a major in English. (Had to take a remedial English course before I could get in.)
My vocation was in Journalism-65 years with the Gaston Gazette. Also I began and operated with Betty, my wife, The Mountain Breeze for 17 years before selling it.
My avocation I guess was in photography before newspapers. While in the Air Force, I attended the AF’s photo school at Lowery Field, Denver, Colorado. After discharge, I set up a photo business in Faith, NC and was the local cameraman working out of my brother’s barber shop in Faith. Surprisingly, I did quite well at that while doing 4 years at Duke. As a senior, I was chief photographer for Duke’s annual, the Chanticleer.”
When asked about Bill’s interests or sports he replied,” Our home in Faith was across the road from the elementary school, and its huge school ground. There was a baseball field, soccer, and tennis facilities. Always somebody playing something. Faith had a good semi-pro baseball team, and when I was ten, I was its mascot-batboy. ‘Got to go with the team on Saturday afternoon outings. We had great teams and the residents supported their boys. One time, to the degree of a free-for-all. Same way with soccer.”
“My wife is Betty Bockmiller Williams of Baltimore. We met one Sunday evening at a Lutheran student group meeting. Started dating and never stopped. Still do. ‘Have been co-habitating for 65 years. Started our family with twin sons, followed by a daughter six years later, then another daughter after eight years and then another daughter after 14 months. Zip. No more.”
“We have nine grands and one great-grand. One of those grands is a Marine first lieutenant who flies an Offsprey.”
Bill tells about a famous relative, Betty’s father, W. H. Bockmiller (nicknamed PIL for pappa-in-law) who volunteered in service in three wars-World War I, Infantry; WWII and the Korean War. “He was Red Cross Field Director with his Maryland Division, whenever they went into battle.”
A funny story of note on himself, Bill wrote, ”I played a little baseball at Duke, one time against the first US President Bush. The game was against Yale and I was playing second and the president played first. Years later in 1991, the President came to Faith on the Fourth of July. He was running for re-election and Faith had one of the biggest Fourths in the south. I was at bat when the President was handed a glove and was taking a few practice tosses at first. Jim Martin, NC governor at the time, walked up and I told him about my first meeting with the President.” “I addressed President Bush with,”Mister President, in 1948 when Yale played Duke, we beat you 10 to 1. I got two hits and you got none.” “Then, I showed him the box score that I had gotten from the Duke Athletic Office. That caused him to bounce a blow off my shoulder and yell””OH, GET OUT OF HERE!” (see photo on this page that shows this event)
Bill thinks that he has worn out any sayings of worth throughout the years of writing, but he likes, ”Well, that’s life”. He says that “things come and go, and if we can adjust, as we go along, we’ll probably be a lot better off”. Or, “When one door closes, another door opens.”
Books by Bill Williams are still in print and are most enjoyable to read. They are, “That’s Life” and “The Confessions of a Shoe Shine Boy”.
The Kent Loud’s of Lake Lure and long-time friends of Bill Williams wanted to go on record with a salute to Bill. The quote from them is: ”When we think of Bill Williams we think of “family, friends and faith”. Family because he is so devoted to his own family. Friends because he has made so many and has touched their lives in so many ways. And faith not only in the conventional sense, but also in his hometown and roots in Faith, North Carolina. Many folks love his talented creative clever writing, ie: the Breeze columns. Also, it is known that one can follow his current and past columns in the Gaston Gazette. One only has to go to the Gaston Gazette’s home page and type in: Bill’s World. It is well worth your time.”
There is no equal to the likes of Bill Williams. A BIG HAPPY 90TH, BILL!