Rev. Tamara Susan Melchert Williams of Kalamazoo, MI., died Sunday, December 3, after a years-long journey with Multiple System Atrophy.
Everyone who met Tamara loved her. With her infectious smile, she radiated kindness and grace, and she kept that joyful heart even as disease took her mobility, her independence, and her voice.
"Tammy" was born January 23, 1962, in Austin, Texas to elementary music teacher Glynn Janis (Rounds) Melchert and botany grad student Thomas Edwin Melchert, Sr. When she was two, they moved to Iowa City. She was valedictorian of Iowa City High School in 1980. In just three years she completed her BS in Outdoor Recreation from the University of Iowa. She also played in the Hawkeye Marching Band for one season. She was a peer minister with the Wesley Foundation in Iowa City, and after graduation worked for a year as Children's Ministry Coordinator for Fairfield United Methodist Church.
She carried a love of music through her life, and seemed to know all the words to every hymn in the United Methodist Hymnal. In 1984, she married her friend and partner in life, Jeremy Paul Heaton Williams. They moved to Washington, D.C., where Tamara received an M. Div. from Wesley Theological Seminary. While there, they welcomed a son, Caleb Benjamin Williams.
Tamara became a Christian at age 16, and that faith became her foundation for the rest of her journey. As a pastor in the United Methodist Church, she spent many years of her ministry focused on youth and youth ministry. She was ordained a Deacon in 1987 and an Elder in 1989. Jeremy and later Caleb also were ordained and are pastors.
She served for five years as pastor of "The Chesapeake Charge" in Deale, MD. She transferred to the West Michigan Conference in 1993, and served at Stevensville UMC from 1993-2002; Central UMC in Traverse City from 2002-2009; and as District Superintendent of the Albion District from 2009-2017, when she took disability leave.
Tamara loved to preach, teach, and encourage others on their own journeys. Many of the youth and adults she served as pastor, camp counselor, and mentor were called into full-time ministry. She and Jeremy opened their home to a number of these young leaders while they served as ministry interns. She was enormously proud of Caleb, pastor of Milwood United Methodist Church in Kalamazoo. After grandson Rowan was born, Jeremy and Tamara moved to Kalamazoo and enjoyed being in church with their family.
Tamara loved leading young people in service. She worked alongside people in over a dozen places on mission trips, including internationally. She also loved camping. She attended and later worked at Camp Hitaga Camp Fire Girls camp in Walker, IA. As an adult, she served as both counselor and dean of week-long youth camps, mostly in Michigan.
Tamara is survived by her parents, Tom and Glynn; husband, Jeremy; son, Caleb, daughter-in-law Colleen Stano, and grandson Rowan; her brother Tom and his family: Lorie, Nolan and Quinn; her sister-in-law Ruth and her family: Steven, Michael and Andrew; brother-in-law Jonathan and his family: Chung, Amy, and Tom; beloved cousins, in-laws, and extended family; friends from childhood, seminary (Terri, Norman, and Suzanne), and many more who have seen God's light in her.
She will be greatly missed. We trust that she is with her Creator, fully enjoying life anew.
A memorial worship service will be held this Saturday, December 9, at 11am, at Marshall United Methodist Church, 721 US Hwy 27 N, Marshall, MI 49068. In lieu of flowers, donations may be given to Lake Louise Christian Community (11037 Thumb Lake Rd, Boyne Falls, MI 49713) or Lake Michigan United Methodist Camp and Retreat Center (5807 Ridge Rd, Pentwater, MI 49449). To view Tammy's personalized webpage, please visit