This column is about a man that all who knew him had to love: Jack Williams.
I attended Jack’s “Celebration of Life” Tuesday. It was lovely and uplifting, and just what any of us might want to have as our official send-off.
As anyone in Hot Springs knows, Jack Williams, a pharmacist, owned the Hot Springs Drug Store for, if I remember, 59 years. After he sold it, he still would pitch in and help behind the counter when he was needed. That’s a lot of time, but then, Jack was lucky enough to have lots of time: When he died on May 1, he was 101 years old. And still going pretty strong. Still driving his distinctive old pickup truck around town. Still capable of captivating conversation.
The celebration included wonderful music – especially the ”closing hymn,” which was a rousing “When the Saints Go Marching In.” Wow. What a way to close a life!
One thing all the speakers – Pastor David George, Dr. Jim Redington, his son, Reed, and several others in the crowd mentioned when they spoke was this: Back in the “good old days,” if you needed medicine in the middle of the night, you called Jack at home, and he drove down, went in the back door, and got you what you needed. If someone needed a medicine they could not afford, Jack would see to it that they got it anyway. (Imagine calling the owner of CVS or Walmart at home at midnight. Can’t be done these days.)
In the past couple of years, Jack moved from his stately home in Hot Springs – about three blocks from the drug store – to his farm in Millboro, to be closer to his daughter, Ann. Yet, he still did his own mowing. Yep. According to all, Jack absolutely loved mowing his yard.
He also sat on his porch and happily welcomed visitors. And there were more than a few. Folks would often drop by just to talk with Jack, and soak up some of his wisdom and a very long list of sharp memories. Along with more than a bit of history.
I do know that back when I ran the Bath County Historical Society, I always enjoyed it when Jack Williams would stop by. The man had a deep knowledge of Bath history and loved to share it. He had traced the Williams history back to, I think Hazel Williams, one of the earliest residents. And, he could name his ancestors through the ages, right up to the present. He had a habit of greeting anyone with the last name of Williams with, “Hey, cousin!” I know that, whenever I had a question about who might have done what, when; or where a certain place I hadn’t heard of was, I would call Jack. He would always know the answer.
The celebration was about as joyful as such an occasion can be. The crowd smiled and even laughed. We all left with light hearts, tempered by a sadness that such a great guy had finally gone to sleep in heavenly peace.
I don’t remember who exactly, but someone said that once, when their aunt or grandmother or some relative asked Jack what his secret to longevity was, the lifelong pharmacist answered, “I never took any medication.” This makes me laugh just to think of it again.
Jack Williams will be very much missed around here, in Hot Springs, Millboro, all of Bath County, really. It can truthfully be said, “They don’t make ‘em like that anymore.” And you’ve gotta love that!