By Becky Cook
On a recent Sunday morning in a local church, the speaker skillfully built a message from a Bible passage in Luke 15 which he labeled “The World’s Greatest Short Story.” We recognized it as the story of The Prodigal Son. It is indeed a powerful and moving message about family love, forgiveness, and healing which inspired me to think of another skilled story teller who has touched his listeners with his editorial skills for 60+ years. You may recognize Bill Williams as a master story teller who has brought us laughter/tears/information of all kinds through his anecdotes and stories.
Bill developed his editorial and photography skills during his growing up years. I believe those experiences became the foundation for his whole career. When he graduated from Duke in 1950, he immediately went to work as a reporter/later editor of The Gaston Gazette, from which he retired in 1987. About 25 years ago Bill emerged from his “first retirement” and started publishing The Mountain Breeze. Bill and his wife Betty owned homes in Gastonia and Lake Lure and divided their time between them. The Breeze became a wonderful asset to this community. Betty became the “chief advertising executive in charge of ads.” They made a perfect team.
Betty is gentle, sweet, knowledgeable, and hard working. Bill doesn’t know a stranger. He’s made many friends who love him and enjoy his ability to tell stories about his life and experience as well as the amazing knack of telling stories about others. He was/is the consummate listener who could grasp a story from someone and they would be instant BFF’s. He showed up with camera in hand at almost every newsworthy event in the community and gathered info and photos for the next issue of The Mountain Breeze.
Eleven years ago, Betty and Bill made the choice to “retire again,” and were fortunate to find Dave and Cathy Leestma who purchased the paper. The Williams sold their Lake Lure house and now live in Gastonia full time. Bill still contributes stories with his “Bill’s world” column.
I’d be remiss if I did not mention two books Bill published which house collections of his stories previously printed in The Gazette. I believe the books are now out of print. But there are a few fortunate folks around who have treasured autographed copies: Confessions of a Shoeshine Boy (1995) and That’s Life (1988.) I want to give you a few teasers from a few of the stories which touched me and put a smile in my heart.
“Not For Just a Year” is a wee bit of a love story about the Gallaways. There were many details about Stan and Georgia’s almost storybook life. Their fairly short residence here at Lake Lure was balanced by swift and wonderful absorption into the church and the community. They loved good music and were blessed in a unique way to hear their special song, Always.
which had been sung many years before at their wedding, and then repeated by Gayle Wilson, the church pianist and choir director, for another milestone event. [That’s Life, pg.85]
“Shalom to a Good Friend” is a mixed emotional piece about the farewell service for a fallen soldier/father-in-law. Even in his own grief, Bill tactfully entered a soft slant telling his readers of this simple coding: PIL [Pa-in-law]; SIL [son-in-law]; MIL [mother-in-law] [That’s Life, p.59]
“Cuddling Up to An Iguana” tells us about a relative of Bill’s who had in his home a fairly large menagerie of tropical reptile pets/iguanas/tarantulas/pythons! It’s an adorable story of how the whole family develops a tolerance or even special relationship (not necessarily BFF)with all these creatures and an adorable little quickie story about the Mom meeting the daughter’s “suitor” at the door with python in her arms saying “May I Help You?” [Confessions of a Shoeshine Boy, p.257]
The past/current/future Breeze writing staff is like a team. Thanks and accolades to all who participate in this precious asset to our Lake Lure community, and beyond!