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Thomas Daniel Williams

July 27, 1942 ~ December 4, 2021 (age 79)

Obituary

Celebrating the Life of Thomas Williams

            Thomas D. Williams was born on a Monday on the 27th of July 1942.  He was the fourth son of Barbara and Daniel, who was drafted into the army in 1945 and sent to fight in the Pacific during the Second World War.  Sadly, less than six months later, he died from wounds suffered in the Battle for Okinawa.  My father’s earliest memory was that of his father’s burial and the playing of Taps, at the age of three. 

            Within a few short years, Tom and his older brothers, Dan, Fred and Larry, were sent to a Catholic boarding school, Guardian Angel, in Wisconsin.  Life at the school was hard and most of his stories were full of harsh punishments and extreme levels of discipline.  The exception was Sister Mark, who was always kind and nice towards him; years later he would honor her memory by naming his son, me, after her. 

            When the boys returned home to a new stepfather and baby sister, life had changed.  He went to Hinsdale High School and became a champion wrestler, where stubborn determination to win served him well on the team.  Unfortunately, his attitude did not serve him well academically and he ended High School without a diploma or clear prospects for the future. 

            Around this time, a friend of his suggested joining the military as an option, and they went to the recruiting station, first Navy, then Marines; all were “out to lunch” except for the Army Sergeant eating a sandwich at his desk.  This chance meeting would change his life.

            Dad spent the next three years in the Army.  He was sent to Stuttgart, Germany, where he met Gudrun, and got married to her after overcoming a few obstacles, namely her father’s approval.  When he became a father, my father, he renewed his determination to succeed, starting with getting his GED and then going on to college, first starting with night school. 

After several years he received his Master’s in Psychology (with honors!) and set off on a lifetime of counseling, first for juveniles in Indiana, later as a civilian for soldiers and their families.  His career in psychology would span 20 years and take him back to Germany and then Fort Hood for retirement.  Throughout his career, he saved a few lives, some publicly recognized, some quietly. 

Along the way, he got divorced, remarried, and divorced again.  Yet throughout life’s ups and downs, he never lost his optimism and appreciation for life.  There was no bitterness to be had.

My father was known as “Cheap Charlie”, but not because he was a miser, but because he didn’t spend much money on himself.  He was generous with all who needed it and enjoyed anonymously surprising others with his open-handedness.  Tom the “Can Man” collected bottle caps and can tabs and using the money he earned from the recycling center, gave his earnings to the Salvation Army.  Having himself benefitted from a second chance in life, he always tried to help others succeed, especially those who needed that second chance as well. 

His smile and friendliness were legendary.  Everyone who knew him remembers how he made them smile and laugh.  This was proven to me again just the other day when I stopped by the Nolanville Post Office.  The postmistress asked me about him, how he was doing, and I sadly reported his passing.  She recalled how he was one of her favorite customers, always smiling with kind words to say. 

My father wasn’t perfect, as he would have said himself, but he was one of a kind.  His fair treatment of all and his genuine respect for others was at the core of his being.  Sadly, he is no longer among us, but his spirit lives on through the way he sought to brighten everyone’s days and make the world around him better.

 

Messages from his Grandchildren

Daniel:  I will miss Grandpa Tom because he would always talk to me on the phone forever, and it was really nice.  I also remember that one time at the airport when we came to visit, and he gave me a big hug and a cookie.  He also used to send me pictures on the phone of hidden animals, and I would find them in the picture like a game.  I remember going “junking” with him and collecting old computer parts to sell at the junkyard.  He loved playing pranks on my parents when I visited, saying things like he was going to keep me in Texas with him unless they gave him a hundred dollars.  I hope he is happy where he is now, and that he rests in peace.  

Andrew:  Grandpa Tom was a kind person with a big heart.  Even though we couldn’t see him often when we lived abroad, he cared about us immensely.  I treasure the times we got to spend together in Texas during the summer, and the horseback riding, restaurants, and times we spent the two of us.  I will miss him a lot. 

Alexandra:  As I sit here in Germany thinking of Grandpa Tom, I remember some fun times visiting him in Texas.  In particular the summer when I was still learning to drive, and I remember practicing driving in his van.   Andrew was in the backseat nervously watching, but he had been confident in my driving abilities and laughed when I hit a curb.  I also remember the jar of chocolate chip cookies he always had on his kitchen table for us.  And nobody could wear a cowboy hat and boots like he could!  I always appreciated his optimism and laughter, and for always supporting my dreams.  He was a wonderful grandpa and will be very missed.

Nicholas:  There are two things I would like to remember about Grandpa Tom: his endless optimism and his ability to talk and be genuine with anyone.  I will remember a grandfather who encouraged me to follow my heart in times when I felt uncertain about what I was doing.  As this is being read, I am likely working on a watch, thinking of you.  Thank you and rest in peace Grandpa Tom. 

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Services

Recitation of the Rosary
Sunday
December 12, 2021

11:00 AM
Heritage Funeral Home
425 E. Central Texas Expy
Harker Heights, TX 76548

Graveside Service
Monday
December 13, 2021

11:00 AM
Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery (Killeen, TX)

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