This is Ray Williams, my father in law on his graduation day from Mesa High in Arizona. Oh how I love him, he passed away October 1st 2008. Today I sat in church holding Frenchie’s hand, listening intently to the speakers who gave incredible tributes to the father’s in their lives. I teared up thinking about how blessed I have been to also have men in my life who have been great examples.
Thinking back I remember Stan Johnson was one of the most influential men in my life during my teen years. He was my seminary teacher, no matter what was going on at home I always knew for one hour a day Monday-Friday I was able to get away from the stressful life I secretly lived and listen to things that were good and wholesome. I will always be grateful to him for his soft, kind demeanor and for helping to ground my testimony of Christ.
My brother in law Greg Watkins, another incredible man but often misunderstood. I always felt protected by him and knew he would do anything to support and love me in all my decisions. Sonya and Greg took over important roles in my life as I stumbled through difficult times of life.
Bob Turner was my bishop when I decided to speak up and tell about my abuse. He was gentle, patient and compassionate. Bishop’s are not trained to be psychiatrist’s or paid to give advice on the troubles that some people, like myself have gone through or are going through. They are not marriage counselors, no Bishop’s are called by God to guide and sometimes discipline those who come to them with undeniable problems. Bishop Turner suggested books for me to read, kept close touch with me weekly and referred me to a well trained counselor. I will always remember how sweet he was with me before and after I faced the stepdad–Bob is a good man.
Stephen Phelps, is another source of light in my life. I watched as a young mother not exactly knowing how to do this mother thing–I wanted to do it right but had no guidance. I watched many men an women in our church congregation raise their children Stephen and his wife Carolei are amazing parents I wanted to immulate many of their traditions and parenting skills. Interesting enough I found out later Stephen knew my mother and father in law Viola and Ray Williams. He had so many nice things to say about Viola. When I was diagnosed with cancer so many people were praying for me, Stephen wrote me a few emails that I will treasure forever. I love this man, he is an example of strength and humility. I cherish our talks and his ability to always lift me up when I know he is the one who needs to lifted during his battle with extreme back pain.
Ray Williams, was one of the most influential men in my life–He loved me and he showed that love by not only telling me but with words. Often times he would call me and ask “How’s my oldest son treating you?” There is no doubt he changed after Vi died, still he never forgot to let his family know they were loved–I loved having him as a father, he’d softly put his arms around me and whisper in my ear “thank you, I love you” I learned to love freely and unconditionally from Ray. Recently a dear friend of ours shared a story with me about Ray and Vi that didn’t surprise me knowing them, but it reaffirmed what I’ve always thought about them.
He said “Ray and Vi were the BEST parents I know. So loving and caring. They had the perfect amount of balance in their parenting and lived the gospel of Jesus Christ with so much vigor and quiet dignity.” He continued by saying ” I’ll never forget a seminal moment in my life in regards to the relationship I had with them. A teacher at Mesa Jr. High told Ray and Vi “You should be wary and careful of that boy Kurt hangs out with. He’s not a good influence and may lead Kurt astray.” He said “Despite the fact the teacher was friends of theirs Ray and Vi took this man to task and defended me. The thing is, I wasn’t a good influence on Kurt. But when I learned of how Ray and Vi had stood up for me I decided right then and there I would NOT disappoint the ‘Williams’ and I straightened up. They raised the bar for me and I instinctively raised my character to match their sentiments of me. Being Tongan many adults were suspicious of me because of my upbringing and being so poor. Ray and Vi treated me like I was one of their own son’s. I could eat whatever was in the fridge and sleep in their home anytime. I became a better person because of them, I owe them such a debt of gratitude…I LOVE Kurtie, Doran and Eric for always treating me EXACTLY as their parents had taught them. Those boys exhibit so many of their parents best characteristics. What a legacy!!”
One of the interesting facts about this story is the young man went on to play in the NFL, marry a beautiful woman and raise some amazing children. I was in tears hearing this story, it was so moving and true to the character of Ray and Viola Williams, everyone loved them.
Finally, my husband Eric aka. Frenchie has been the father I always dreamed of having for my children. He has a good mixture of humor, kindness, hardworking, and goofy. Many times I know he has not understood why I do some of the things I do, but he is still here.