Remembering Jack Williams
Basehor loses valuable community contributor
The health of Jack Williams, a late Basehor resident of 40 years and a community pillar, had deteriorated gradually throughout the last several years and was failing him again last week. Before he left this world, however, Williams accomplished another in a long list of lifetime achievements.
He lived to see his 45th wedding anniversary.
Williams and his wife, Virginia, were married Feb. 27, 1960. In a testament to his love for their marriage, Williams fought past congestive heart failure and lived to see the light of that day.
Williams, 67, a business owner and activist in several local civic organizations, died Sunday, Feb. 27, 2005, in his hospital room at Providence Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan.
"He cherished our anniversary and he wanted to make it to that date," Virginia Williams said. "That's just the way he was and it definitely meant a lot to him. It meant a lot to the both of us."
Friends and family were to pay their final respects to Williams during a funeral service scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday at Elm Grove Baptist Church, 158th Street and Kansas Highway 32 in Bonner Springs. Burial was to take place at Glenwood Cemetery in Basehor.
Although those who knew Williams were to offer final goodbyes Thursday, many said they would never forget the contributions he made to the community.
Mr. Williams, owner and an operator of Star Realty and Williams Insurance Agency, was a founding member of the Basehor Chamber of Commerce and served on its board of directors for many years. He was also a member of the Basehor Veterans of Foreign Wars organization and in the past had served on the Basehor Community Library Board of Trustees and worked with the Kiwanis.
He also participated in the building of First Baptist Church in Basehor and hoped to do the same for Elm Grove Baptist Church, where he and Virginia were congregation members.
"He was just a good supporter of numerous activities in the community," said Susan Guy, another founding Chamber of Commerce member. Williams and Guy participated on a U.S. Highway 24/40 task force that helped pave the way for road enhancements.
Essentially, Williams and other task force members met for several months to procure funds that helped provide the community with "the highway we have today," Guy said.
Virginia Williams said her husband had a voracious appetite for learning new things and an easy way to do that was by serving in the community. For this, he sought no credit or fame, Mrs. Williams said.
"He did not try to get acknowledged," she said. "He was humble. He was just always interested in progress and interested in doing something for the community."
Bob Wiley, commander of the Basehor VFW, knew Williams for more than 30 years. Williams served in the U.S. Air Force for five years, from 1954 to 1959.
Wiley said Williams was an active member of the post, when health permitted, and that his friend helped provide American flag displays to the families of fallen veterans.
"He really enjoyed being active in it," Wiley said. "Some of his other obligations kept him from being as active as he liked, but he did a lot of things for us in the organization. Certainly, he did as much as he could."
Virginia Williams said her husband's health began worsening four years ago. He had diabetes and severe heart problems. A few years ago, his diabetes triggered a heart attack; he had struggled with his health since then, she said.
However, though his body was failing him, Williams wouldn't let his mind diminish. He was just as interested in his favorite subjects -- sports, history, aviation and current events -- on the day he died as he was before his health problems began, Mrs. Williams said.
"Even though he was sick and disabled, he kept abreast of what the president was doing and the cabinet," Virginia Williams said. "He was very interested in what was going on in the world."
Particularly, she said, he was interested in the world of sports.
Williams loved basketball and football and could astonish people with his knowledge of the games. She recalled a time years ago when her husband's sports fervor appeared in the midst of a medical emergency at the hospital.
Williams was upset that he was missing an important University of Kansas men's basketball game, his wife said. After all, it was the middle of March Madness.
"That day they were working on him and trying to save his life and he was wanting to watch the game," Mrs. Williams said. "That's how much he loved sports."
Perhaps Williams' first love, other than his friends, family and community, was aviation. Virginia Williams said her husband, a licensed pilot, whetted his appetite for aviation while serving in the Air Force.
After his service ended, he earned his pilot's license through the GI Bill.
Often the Williams family took trips with Jack manning the cockpit.
It was there, in the deep blue skies, that Williams found his true passion, she said.
Tragically, it was taken away all too soon when Williams' diabetes caused him to fail a physical examination required for pilots. Because he couldn't pass the physical, Williams was no longer able to fly, a notion that devastated him, his wife said.
"He came home and cried," she said. "He loved aviation. He just loved it."
Those who knew him said Thursday's service will be difficult, but they're pleased that area residents will have an opportunity to pay their final respects to a man that contributed in many ways to the community, most of which can still be felt today.
"He was interested in many things, he did a lot of things," Wiley said. "Any tribute to him would be well worth it. He's earned it."