NEW BRITAIN – The memorial service for Jim Williamson, longtime president of the Community Foundation of Greater New Britain, began with a slideshow of photos from his life, set to songs by Marc Cohen, Bob Seger, and the Eagles.
“Wow, it’s the first time I saw that,” said his widow Vickie Williamson, in welcoming the audience to the service held Saturday morning at Calvary Church in West Hartford.
Williamson, 69, died on Nov. 1 at the Hospital of Central Connecticut’s New Britain General Campus after a two and a half year battle with cancer.
Williamson transformed the grant-making foundation into a leader in the community by forging partnerships and addressing challenges in the area. The foundation’s coverage includes Southington and Plainville.
“We are grieving the loss of a wonderful, beloved man - a husband a father, a grandfather, a brother, an uncle, and friend,” said Vickie. “But at the same time we are rejoicing in knowing with assurance that he is in heaven with God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
She said her late husband’s faith sustained him through his illness and treatments, and at times “you would never know he was sick.” He managed to continue to golf in three leagues, bike on the rail trails, and to participate in community activities, she said. “He dearly loved the Community Foundation of Greater New Britain. It wasn’t just a job, it was his passion.”
Larry Gallupe, one of the church elders, gave a reading during the service, and recalled Williamson as “a dear friend of mine,” with whom he would engage in friendly verbal duels.
He also recalled a lunch with his friend just a few days before his death. “Even though he most certainly knew the end was near, his handshake was firm, and he refused the conversation to become melancholy. Jim, I have learned much from you and I will miss you my friend,” Gallupe said.
Pastor Frank Termine gave the opening and closing prayers, as well as the sermon. Daughter-in-law Kerry Williamson sang “Amazing Grace” and “Reckless Love,” accompanying herself on piano. There was an open microphone portion, where friends, colleagues, and son–in-law Stephen Waggoner shared their memories and anecdotes.
Williamson’s sons Jamie and Trent, and daughter Leigh Waggoner, gave the eulogy.
Jamie said he will always admire his father for having lived a life dedicated to his family and to “making an impact in the lives of people that he would never meet” through his work with the foundation, as well his contributions at the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, the Boy Scouts, the United Way of America, and The Rotary Club.
“I would be blessed to live a life as good, with as much impact across so many, as he did, and I’ll always be proud to say that he was my Dad,” he said.
Waggoner said she always enjoyed hearing about her father’s work in the community and sending him pictures from the school where she teaches.
She said a note from a friend’s father stayed with her. “He wrote to me ‘when you think back on these memories with your dad the sadness will eventually turn to sweetness.’ So thank you Dad for such sweet, sweet memories,” she said.
Trent said it almost felt like his father was invincible, even during his illness.
“He was a pillar in the community that he worked in,” Trent said. “He was passionate about early childhood development and giving back to others. He was a rock to his family that he loved and provided for, he was a constant in my life, and my brother and sister’s lives - someone to look to for help and love, for a good laugh, and even friendly advice.”
It has only been two months since his passing, Trent said, “and already I think to myself ‘what would Dad do right now?’ I’ll carry that with me for the rest of my life.”
Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or firstname.lastname@example.org.