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Obituary for Samuel Dyches Williams
Samuel D. Williams, 93, proud Civilian Conservation Corp member, World War II veteran, philanthropist, active church supporter, genealogist, entertainer, and vivid story teller, was called home by the Master on October 14, 2016. His family called him “the real deal,” a hero for the ages. Sam made friends wherever he was. Most recently he could be found with his daughter at the Bargain Box in Yorktown, VA. He was a familiar figure for 30 years around Milledgeville, GA, and the town of Eatonton, GA. He actively supported his church, Lake Country Baptist Church. During his frequent hospital and rehabilitation stays, nurses and workers came to enjoy his wry sense of humor, face making, singing, and bringing a laugh to many. No person was a stranger to him and he enjoyed regaling anyone and everyone with his stories. His stories were legendary and never ending. In his final hospital stay, his daughter-in-law, Susan, and great-granddaughters, Beth and Faith, played gospel music for him and he began to sign so loud that the entire hospital wing could hear him. He was generous to a fault and financially helped hundreds of people and organizations who ran onto hard times. At times, he donated all of his monthly income to help others and often loaned money to others which he never recovered. And, if you knew Sam, you were invited to eat with him as he was generous with invitations to breakfast, dinner, or supper. He fed hundreds of people over the years, never leaving a restaurant without picking up the bill. As a teenager, he helped his family avoid starvation by joining the Civilian Conservation Corps. The CCC paid $30 a month to these industrious young men -- $25 of which was sent home to the families. The CCC boys built most of the nation’s national parks, bridges, watersheds, logging roads, camping facilities, and infrastructure projects around the US. In Louisiana he worked with erosion control. In Idaho, he fought wild fires, cleared logging roads, and built log cabins while there – all hard labor. When he was 83 years old, he went to Warm Lake, Idaho, to locate the CCC campsite where he had served in the 1930’s. He located the campsite and discovered that the camp owners had purchased the log cabins from the government when the CCC’s closed. Sam was stunned to discover that he was actually staying in one of the billets in which he bunked in 1938. The holes from spiked shoe fights still ringed the inside of the cabin as he related stories of how his guitar was destroyed by an errant shoe. This September, he went to Las Vegas for a CCC Legacy reunion. He was honored at Zion National Park on September 26, 2016 for a CCC statue dedication and, at 93, he was the only living CCC member to attend the dedication ceremony After the December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor, he immediately enlisted in the Army Air Corp. He survived a troop train derailment where he was injured as he was thrown out of his bunk onto his left side. He would be in pain with this hip for the rest of his life and eventually have 5 hip replacements as he outlived the appliances. In early 1942, he was on the refitted Queen Mary on its famous 40 days’ and 40 nights’ troop movement to support the Pacific Campaign. His group was bivouacked at the Sydney Racecourse, staying in the horses’ stalls. He was sent to New Guinea where he survived malaria, dengue fever, and a bombing raid that left him shell shocked as he was diving to his foxhole. The hearing loss that he suffered never healed and his ears were so injured that even hearing aids could not help his hearing. He was taken to a hospital in Charleyville, Australia where he recuperated for several months. Those bombing injuries left him serving “light duty” at General McArthur’s headquarters in Brisbane, Australia. He met General McArthur several times and enjoyed telling the stories about his experiences with the General who one time called him “son.” When he got back to the United States, he decided to continue his military duty to have a good retirement in place. When he was serving at Hunter Field, he won the lottery of life’s partners. He chaperoned a dance at which he met Thelma Elizabeth Durrence who worked for the FBI in Savannah, Georgia. She agreed to marry him and they traveled through life together as a team, celebrating 47 years together When he was stationed in Guam, his beloved Thelma was able to find a job working on the compound with Morrison Knudsen Contracting Company. She totally surprised him by getting to Guam as a surprise – yep he was surprised all right! He served at Wethersfield England, and in Orlando, Florida, where he became an instructor for the TAC Missiles. He retired from the Air Force and began another career as a toll collector/manager/courier for the State of Florida Turnpike Authority. When he retired from the State of Florida, he became a world traveler. He took his daughter to visit the homes in which they had lived in England. When he went to Australia to see where he had served in the Army Air Corps, he found his first girlfriend after 51 years. Later, he traveled around the United States for reunions of the TAC Missileers and the CCC boys, and to Idaho to locate the CCC camp where he fought fires and cut logging roads through the heavy mountains. When he became unable to travel by himself, his daughter took him to many Missileers and CCC reunions, as well as many family reunions. She took him to see long-lost family members and to Baltimore to ride on the USS Liberty Ship. Volumes could be written about his experiences which were varied and vast. He will be sorely missed by hundreds of people. He was predeceased by his beloved wife, Thelma Elizabeth Durrence Williams, and his longtime friends, Bobby Thompson, Dorothy Black, and Joan Opperman. He is survived by his daughter and son-in-law, Katherine and Paul Gregory, his son and daughter-in-law, Sam and Christy Williams, his granddaughter and her partner, Jennifer Harmon and Aaron D’Angelo, his grandson and grand-daughter-in-law, Paul and Susan Gregory, his great-grandson and his partner, Trais Harmon and Delenn Suesz, his great-granddaughters, Faith Marie Gregory and Elizabeth Ann Westfall. He is also survived by his beloved friends, Alice Stancil, Doug Parham, Dorcille Giddens, Fay Chambers, and all of his beloved church-family at Lake Country Baptist Church in Eatonton, Georgia.
A viewing for family and friends in Virginia will be at Amory Funeral Home in Grafton, VA on Saturday, October 15, 2016 at 7:00 – 8:00 pm. A viewing for family and friends in Eatonton, GA will be at Vining Ivy Hill Chapel in Eatonton, GA on Tuesday, October 18, 2016 at 7:00 – 8:00 pm. The service will be held at Lake Country Baptist Church on Wednesday morning at 10:00 am, officiated by Dr. Driggers, pastor. A graveside service will be at Andersonville National Cemetery in Americus, Georgia, on Wednesday afternoon at 2:00 pm, officiated by Robert Cash, former pastor and friend. Remembrances please to: Lake Country Baptist Church in honor of our Lord, or to the Disabled American Veterans, in memory of disabled veterans, or to your local Foodbank, in memory of his frequent desire that no one be hungry. Vining Ivy Hill Chapel was in charge of local arrangements.