Willie Mae Williams’ kindness made his home a hub
This story is part of Loved and Lost, a statewide media collaboration that works to celebrate the lives of every New Jersey resident who has died from COVID-19. To learn more and submit a loved one’s name for profiling, visit loveandlostnj.com.
Willie Mae Williams has often joked that she lives in Grand Central Station – in Ewing.
The family home in Central Jersey was a hub of activity. Far beyond letting the neighborhood kids play basketball in the driveway, she was happy to let the family stay at her home until they could get back on their feet, her daughter Sonya Wormley said.
“People who knew my parents knew that if you needed help you could ask Willie Mae,” she said. “She was reliable. Even at 81, she was always on the move.”
Born in January 1939, Williams grew up in Walterboro, South Carolina. Her mother died when she was 9, but with the help of her aunts, Williams thrived. Cheerleader and mid-court basketball player in high school, Williams attended the state of South Carolina. However, she couldn’t afford to stay longer than a year, Wormley said.
At 20, Williams left with a friend for Philadelphia. There she worked as a short-term cook to go to secretarial school. The effort paid off. Williams then got a job at the Trenton Psychiatric Hospital, where she worked for 33 years.
Trenton is also where she first lived with her husband of 55 years, David Williams. The two moved to Ewing in 1968 because they wanted a home with a yard for their children, Wormley said.
Known to her friends and neighbors as “Miss Mae”, Williams loved to cook and be entertained inside and outside her home. A member of the parent-teacher organization of Our Lady of the Divine Pastor, Williams has organized school events, including the annual basketball banquet.
His sons, Gary and Kelly, and daughter Melanie played basketball in college. Williams applauded. She was also a demanding sports fan and followed professional teams in New York and Philadelphia. In the 1970s, the family owned two televisions. If the Knicks and 76ers played at the same time, both games would go off.
“She was the one who really turned my dad into basketball,” Wormley said. “I couldn’t say she had a favorite team. She always supported the underdog.”
In retirement, Williams developed his passion for reading. David Baldacci was his favorite author. Wormley said his mother would always pass the vouchers on, so they could talk about it later. She also enjoyed spending time with her four grandchildren, from miniature golf outings to school events.
Williams passed away on May 6, 2020. She was 81 years old.