Williams_Willabell.jpgKENT KRIEGSHAUSER/The Register-Mail

Galesburg resident Willabell Williams will be honored Sunday at the Carver Center for her many years of teaching and community involvement.

Miss Willabell is simply 'amazing'

Longtime teacher, mentor to be honored Sunday

Saturday, May 26, 2007

GALESBURG - Willabell Williams knew she wanted to be a teacher by the time she was 6 years old.

The oldest of nine children, Williams mentored her younger siblings as a child - then went on to touch hundreds of lives as director of the Carver Center and a longtime teacher at Churchill Junior High, Lombard Middle School and Galesburg High School.

Now 86, Williams has been retired for 20 years but vividly recalls living in Galesburg for more than eight decades and remains interested in politics, education and race relations.

"I still think young, so I stay young," Williams said.

She moved to Galesburg with her family at age 4 and graduated from Galesburg High School in 1939. She attended Brown's Business College and worked as a housekeeper and secretary before working at the Carver Center, attending Knox College and becoming a history and civics teacher. She also served six years as a school board member for District 205.

After graduating from Knox, Williams turned down an office job at the college because she felt destined to be in the classroom.

"I didn't want to work with papers. I wanted to work with kids," she said.

Known as "Miss Willabell" to the children who knew her at Carver Center and as "Mrs. Williams" to those she taught in Galesburg schools, Williams will be honored at a reception Sunday from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. at Carver Center, 404 S. Depot St.

Mayor Gary Smith will read a proclamation at the reception declaring Sunday Willabell Williams Day.

"Every time I think of it, I get teary-eyed," Williams said.

Naomi Law grew up down the street from "Mrs. Williams." She remembers her as tough, but loving.

Law moved back to Galesburg last spring after 40 years away and has been working with friends, family and community members to plan the reception in Williams' honor.

"We, as younger people, need to stop and honor the people who encouraged us, the people who believed in us," Law said. "You never get to old and you're never too young to do that. That's what this is really all about. She always taught young people they could do anything they could dream."

Williams and her husband Floyd, who died several years ago, never had children of their own. In addition to her work with children in the community, she also has influenced her many nieces and nephews and their children.

"She is an amazing person," said nephew Rick Morrow. "She loved her job dearly. A lot of people wouldn't be where they are if it wasn't for her."

Reception

- When: 2:30-4:30 p.m. Sunday.

- Where: Carver Center, 404 S. Depot St.

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