Students, Clinton City Schools staff members, friends and family say they and Sampson County have lost one of the best ambassadors for love and friendship ever seen with the sudden death of L.C. Kerr School assistant principal Ron Williams.
The 58-year-old Williams died unexpectedly early Monday morning at Sampson Regional Medical Center from what family members say was believed to be a blood clot.
Always quick to greet friends with a million dollar smile, a loving hug or a word of encouragement, Williams was the one who could turn the beginning of any miserable day into a happy one, just with his presence, many said. That is why counselors were at L.C. Kerr and Williams’ former school, Butler Avenue, Monday to help students and staff members cope with the shocking news.
“It is a tremendous loss for our school system,” said Clinton City Schools superintendent Stuart Blount. “Mr. Williams had a true love of learning and a love for children. I have only known him for a very short time, but in that time, it was very obvious to me that his dedication was very genuine to the school system. He will be greatly missed, and our thoughts and prayers will continue to go out to his family and those who worked with him at Butler Avenue and L.C. Kerr and the students there.”
Jan Smith, principal at L.C. Kerr, said Williams loss is heartbreaking.
“Mr. Williams was an integral part of the Kerr School family and he will be missed tremendously by the students, the staff and the families,” she said. “His school spirit, positive attitude and dedication to enriching the lives of young children served as an example for all of us. Our school will not be the same without him. He was a shining example of how one person can truly make a difference in the lives of many.”
Williams, a product of the Clinton City School system, graduated from Clinton High School and Fayetteville State University before joining the U.S. Marine Corps. He spent most of his adult life in California, where he was also an educator, before coming back to Clinton over a half-decade ago to teach at Butler Avenue School, where he eventually became the assistant principal. Last year, he was transferred to L.C. Kerr, where he quickly spread his love.
“He just touched everyone’s life,” Smith attested. “If he got to know you, he was always there for you. Our staff, and I know Butler Avenue’s staff will tell you, that he would always be there for you in your time of need. If it was a small need or large need, he was there. One time I told him that he was so good at supporting people, being there for them and knowing just the right thing to say, and he replied, ‘well, my mother taught me well.’ He told me that he would just have to think what his would do and do it. I just thought that was a real testament to his mother.”
He would carry that style in his everyday life, including the way Williams handled the children. Williams got right on the child’s level and spoke to them with respect, even while handing out a stern lecture.
“The children knew if they were sent to Mr. Williams office they were in some sort of trouble,” Smith explained. “They may not have liked going in there, but they also knew that no matter what happened in there, that when they left, he still loved them. He made sure they knew that. That is very important for them to know that a child can disappoint someone (with their behavior or actions), but they were still loved. With Mr. Williams, they were always certain that no matter what they did, he loved and cared for them.”
Her announcement to the school Monday morning was probably one of the hardest she has ever had to make.
“I just tried to explain to them why we all had sad faces,” Smith said, “But I wanted the teachers to explain what had happened. At this age I think they needed a smaller group, like the classroom, and have someone that the students knew and trusted to share with them the information so they could ask questions. The counselors followed by going classroom to classroom talking to the students.”
Williams was recently married to his second wife, had two grown children and two grandchildren, according to his cousin Terrace Miller, also an employee at Clinton City Schools.
“He was a people person,” Miller said. “I was at the hospital with his wife the day he died. I was holding his cell phone and he got a text from one of the TA’s that was letting him know her mother had just passed. I didn’t know it at the time, but he had been to the hospital earlier the same day he died to visit her mother. He didn’t know the mother, but because it was a mother of an employee, he just wanted to go and visit her. That is the kind of person Ron Williams was.”
Miller tells a similar story that took place only a week ago when her own father was in the emergency room and she texted Williams to let him know where she was.
“Five minutes later he was walking through the emergency room door,” she recalled with a laugh. “Then, while we were sitting there in the ER, a guy comes up to him and recognizes him. They start chatting and realize that they played sports together back in high school. Forty years later they meet up and are reminiscing and making plans to meet up again … that is just the kind of person he was.”
Miller said after the news spread about his passing, condolences came in quickly, including on his Facebook page.
“I was really moved by the number of people that knew him and loved him,” she acknowledged. “People I didn’t even know were leaving posts sending their love to him; it was pretty special … You know, I don’t even think he knew how much he had an impact on people. It was genuine. I have been in the presence of people who didn’t know I was related to him and they would say, ‘you know that Ron Williams is just a great guy’ or ‘I wish we had more APs like him’ … things like that. It makes me feel good to know how much he was loved.”
Blount noted that the Central Office was also flooded with calls, cards and condolences on Williams’ passing.
“Other administrators and teachers have shown their concern and support through emails, phone calls and flowers to the school system,” he said. “He was well liked and very well respected. It was obvious that he made a tremendous impact not only on this school system, but on this community as well.”
That love was delivered everyday by Williams in all that came in contact with him, including his family.
“I think that he loved everybody,” Miller said. “One of the things that he always said to me that he was happy that he moved back home (to Clinton) to be closer to his family. Through all of his adult life he had been in California or traveling with military. He wanted to move back to have an opportunity to reconnect with his family. He also told me that he had wished he had done sooner because he realized how much he missed out on being here with his family. He was big about visiting with family and friends and reconnecting with them.”
For now, those who knew and loved him will be left with memories of a truly special person who lit up lives and shared his gifts with them on a daily basis, his friends said.
“We can never replace his personality and the job he did for the school system,” Blount said. “The next few days we will have the support system in place to help Mrs. Smith and her students and staff to cope with this incredible loss. First and foremost our focus will go to helping our schools and community deal with this tremendous loss. Our prayers go out to his family.”
Smith puts it best, “He is irreplaceable.”
To reach Doug Clark call 910-592-8137 ext. 123 or email to email@example.com.