Obituary of Kenneth Williams
Ken Williams passed away very peacefully in his favorite chair in his home, in Hayward, CA on January 7th 2019 at the age of 97.
His extraordinary longevity can be attributed to the selfless love he received from all his friends and family many of whom lived very far away but kept in constant phone contact. Ken lived many years with his loving wife Elizabeth (Betty) in Grass Valley, CA and enjoyed his morning walks along the Litton Trail with family and friends and his much loved dog “Shorty.”
Born in Hico, LA on a cotton farm in 1921 Dad preceded the Great Depression by 8 years. By the age of 12 he saw very quickly that cotton sale prices did not make enough to pay the bills. Year after year he saw his family relinquish acre by acre portions of their 640 acre farm land to the government to pay back taxes. Being the second youngest of 13 children and raised by his sisters, Dad took the first opportunity to leave the farm and join the Navy in June of 1940. He was sent to Pearl Harbor but was shipped out just seven days before the infamous Japanese bombing attack. Dad would profess later that this was simple careful planning on his part. At that time, High School Graduation was a real plus and combined with his superior intellect Dad applied for and was sent for advanced training to become a Navy Meteorologist. He spent the next 21 years of his life moving all over the world including a two year stint in Japan not long after the US nuclear bombing of that country. Dad chose to live out in the Japanese countryside rather than live on the safety of “on base” housing. Just like in America, Dad earned the respect of the local Japanese people and resided there for two years without incident.
After Dad retired from the Navy in January of 1961 he was hired by San Jose State College as a technician for the Physical Science Department, based in part on his electrical engineering degree he earned while at the Great Lakes Naval School in Illinois. Very quickly he became an indispensable part of that San Jose State science program and soon was asked to be a guest lecturer on the topic of weather forecasting and various other physical science topics. He was popularly elected to become the President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) where he performed at the highest level. Later he worked side by side with Dr. William Shockley, the Nobel Prize laureate for the development of the transistor. I learned later, after the information was declassified that Dad was the lead forecaster for the WWII D Day invasion and how large a part the weather played in deciding when and how that important milestone in the war effort was.
Dad was neither a dove nor a hawk when it came to war. He served in WWII with distinction but later as the Vietnam war expanded to astronomical levels, Dad at great personal peril, co-authored a joint position paper with Rear Admiral Arnold True and others in the military which posited that this South East Asian war was not winnable based upon all their experience with this culture and the tacit support of China. I am sure that the cumulative effects of such letters led to the final withdrawal from Vietnam.
Perhaps Dad’s most enduring character was his sense of humor. On his very last morning after breakfast, he whimsically asked to be alone with his very attractive caretaker so they could share affection…he ate a good breakfast laid down and went to sleep never to awaken.
Dad was widowed in 2003, his son, Ron Williams preceded him in death in 1973. He is survived by his son, Ken and his wife Marilena Williams of Hayward, CA, his daughter Pamela and her husband Charles Scimeca of Nevada City CA, ex-daughter-in-law Jean Williams of Scotts Valley, CA, five grandchildren Robert Williams, Dr. Heather McDonald (Eric), Jenna Scimeca Collins (Andrew), Daniel Scimeca,
Paul Walters and two great-grandchildren Ronan and Hagan McDonald.
Services will be held at Oak Hill Cemetery, San Jose, CA, on Saturday January 19th 2019 where he will be laid to rest next to his beloved wife Elizabeth (Betty) Williams. Service will be held from 2:00 to 3:00PM. A reception will be held on site immediately after the service. All are welcome to join us in celebrating a life lived to the fullest.
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