Wednesday, January 20, 2016
5:00 PM to 7:00 PM EST
Life Story Funeral Homes - Betzler
6080 Stadium Drive
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
Food and refreshments will be served
Thursday, January 21, 2016
10:00 AM EST
Ft. Custer National Cemetery
15501 Dickman Road
Augusta, MI 49012
At the family's request memorial contributions are to be made to those listed below. Please forward payment directly to the memorial of your choice.
Stoneridge Adult Foster Care
4825 Fruin Road
Bellvue, MI 49021
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
On January 16, 2016 we lost another member of the Greatest Generation as Robert Herbert Williams passed away at the age of 97 in Battle Creek, Michigan. In many ways, Herb Williams defined his generation as a devoted husband, dedicated father, and proud American. From his earliest years, Herb learned the value of hard work, and his work ethic was evident in all he did. From working on the family farm to providing a good home and life for the family he held most dear, Herb was one of a kind. Highly intelligent, Herb spoke often of the past, but he always planned for the future. These qualities and so much more made Herb so easy to admire and love.
Robert Herbert Williams was born in Henderson Kentucky on September 18, 1918, the son of Aubrey and Allie “Sis” (Nichols) Williams. Affectionately known as “Herb”, he grew up alongside his younger brother, Aubrey Preston Williams where they each worked the family farm and attended to their studies. They lived on a self- sufficient farm and tobacco was their main crop but farm life provided many adventures for the two brothers and had its share of challenges, too. Their dad was interested in growing apples and had a tree with a special apple. He instructed both of his boys not to disturb the apple as he had planned to use the seeds from the apple to grow more apple trees. With thoughts of ingenuity, Herb discovered a way around his Dad's instructions. After climbing the tree, he proceeded to eat the back of the apple. Nonetheless, when the apple began to wither and his father discovered what happened, it was the only time Herb ever remembered his father having anything but a gentle demeanor!
His parents planned for him to grow up and take over the farm one day, but Herb had other plans for his future. During his youth Herb was especially proud of a steer he raised but never quite liked farming. After graduating from Spottsville High School in 1936, he chose to further his education. He attended Western Kentucky State Teachers College in Bowling Green, Kentucky, and earned his degree with a desire to teach agriculture. While in college Herb was very active in the R.O.T.C. program and grew fond of the military which changed his life.
After graduation, with World War II well underway in Europe, Herb joined the U.S. Army in 1941. As a second lieutenant in the infantry of the Army Reserve Corps, he was ordered to report with the 11th Infantry at Fort Benjamin Harrison near Indianapolis, Indiana. He became a rifle platoon leader in K Company, 11th Infantry, and was soon transferred to D Company as a machine gun platoon leader at Fort Custer, Michigan. From there Herb was ordered to Iceland in 1942, and went on to England, Scotland, North Ireland and then to the coast of Normandy, France, landing at Utah Sugar Red Beach on July 9, 1944. He was among those who went into Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia until the defeat of Germany. During his time in Europe as a battalion commander Herb was promoted to the rank of Major. For his military war service he was awarded the silver and bronze stars, and a purple heart. The war had a tremendous impact on Herb and he maintained relationships with fellow soldiers for many years following the war. He also kept meticulous records of his experiences during the war and wrote a book based on his memoirs.
Throughout this time, Herb had fond thoughts of his sweetheart back home, Evelyn Ruth Bowerman from Quincy, Michigan. He met Evelyn in Battle Creek, Michigan, while assigned to Fort Custer. They were married on February 18, 1942 at Fort Sheridan in a wooden chapel. Throughout the war she wrote him daily and he cherished the letters and saved each and every correspondence. Upon his return home to Evelyn’s arms on July 20, 1945, Japan finally surrendered on August 14, 1945. Together they raised their three children, Bruce, Marsha and Linda in their loving and caring home in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
After the war, Herb went to work at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. He dedicated 34 years to WMU and retired in 1980 as Director of the WMU Physical Plant. Throughout his tenure, Herb was proud to contribute and bear witness to the progress at WMU as Western was transformed from a college to a large, well regarded university.
He and Evelyn enrolled all three of their children in the Campus School at WMU to help enhance their education. There were many snowy mornings in Kalamazoo which began with Herb and Evelyn shoveling the driveway and then, with all three kids, driving to Western where everyone began their day.
Herb and Evelyn enjoyed a long and active retirement in Bonita Springs, Florida where Herb enjoyed golf and times with great friends. For many years after the war, Herb and Evelyn met with his Army buddies during the summers in Michigan. A staunch student of military history, Herb gleaned great knowledge of the Civil War and WWII. While in Bonita Springs they were both active members of the First Presbyterian Church.
Distance did not make a difference to Herb when it came to his grandchildren. He so enjoyed their visits to Florida well into their college years. As always, Herb had a loving hug awaiting them. After moving back to Michigan and it became more difficult for Herb to get out, he enjoyed weekly visits from his great-grandchildren. With cookies, candy and ice cream shakes in hand to satisfy Herb’s enormous sweet tooth, he’d sit the little ones on his lap and sing the songs of his youth, “You Are My Sunshine” and “My Old Kentucky Home” to them. And so typical of Herb, when they began to leave he’d wave and say, “Come again!”
Over the years Herb enjoyed a multitude of activities. He grew cactus in his greenhouse in Kalamazoo, photographing and identifying each of them. He enjoyed stamp collecting, golfing, and collecting and reading books about the Bible. With an extensive personal library, he delved into family history and genealogy, researching the lineage of both he and Evelyn. In fact, at one point Herb was the president of the Genealogy Society in Bonita Springs. He spent time woodworking, especially turning spindles for an old family cradle and made bowls out of walnut.
Herb considered reading and writing two of his favorite past times. He loved the sounds of Glenn Miller’s orchestra and Benny Goodman. In retirement Herb served his community delivering Meals on Wheels in Bonita Springs which often included fresh baked goods prepared by Evelyn. For many years he and Evelyn enjoyed a "day off" together on Wednesdays to go out for lunch or maybe a little shopping. Even after all these years, Evelyn still captured Herb’s heart. When he first met her back in 1941 on a double date, he knew she was the one and only gal for him. Throughout his days Herb always talked about how attractive Evelyn was, especially her legs! For several years Herb was devoted to caring for his “dearest wife,” Evelyn, at home until, sadly, she passed away in 2009. He happily did so, although he never cared much for cooking.
A man of honor, integrity and faith, Herb Williams will be deeply missed and fondly remembered in the hearts of those who knew and loved him.
Robert “Herb” Williams, age 97, of Kalamazoo died peacefully on January 16, 2016 in Battle Creek, MI. Members of his family include his three children: Bruce (Jeannie) Williams, Marsha Williams and Linda (Bob) Burnham; seven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his wife Evelyn and an infant son Robert Preston. Learn more about Herb and share refreshments with his family on Wednesday from 5-7 pm at the Life Story Funeral Home, Betzler-Kalamazoo, 6080 Stadium Drive (375-2900). Family graveside services, with military honors will be at 10 am on Thursday at Ft. Custer National Cemetery. Please visit Herb’s personal memory page at www.lifestorynet.com where you can share a memory or photo and sign his online guestbook. Memorial contributions may be directed to: Stoneridge Adult Foster Care, 4825 Fruin Rd., Bellevue, MI 49021.