The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966


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Citizen of the Century

 

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Virginia Hawkins, Darling, Dr. Howard Romig and Pat Ray Williams at a Seward High class reunion in 1978.

Each year The Seward Phoenix LOG seeks a person, club, organization or any kind of deserving entity deserving of recognition and a great big "thank you."

We want to honor someone who has made an outstanding contribution to the community without the expectation of financial or personal gain. What sets the Citizen of the Year apart from the rest of us is that they do things that remind us of what good volunteer work is.

All of this year's nominees deserve recognition for embodying that spirit.

This year we had a stand-out nominee – Pat Williams – who lived to 104 and finished her grand adventure in 2014.

Williams epitomizes everything we admire in a citizen. She was interested and engaged in the community of Seward. She looked after her community. She understood what it is to be a good citizen, to be a public servant where representative democracy is of the people, by the people and for the people.

She believed everyone had a right and responsibility to watch government. And she did.

She did all that in addition to looking out for her neighbors. All the while having fun.

Williams' citizenship so impresses us that we name her Citizen of the Century.

Pat Williams, Citizen of the Century

Pat Williams was born in Valdez on Oct. 20, 1909 and came to Seward when she was 1-1/2 years old.

Her father, L.V. Ray, was senate president of the first Territorial Legislature in 1913. The first bill passed by that august body gave women the right to vote,with unanimous approval. The bill was written by Sen. Ray and introduced by his friend, H.B. Ingram of Valdez.

Her mother, Hazel, was a liberated woman for her time and the influence of her parents did much to frame the kind of woman Pat would become. She was always active in her community and in state affairs.

Pat described herself as an "active toddler" when she ran away from home during her father's senate service, causing the whole of Juneau to look for her. She made her way first to the chambers of the House of Representatives and finally to a Senate meeting room. Her father had the sergeant of arms take her home. That first expression of independence carried throughout Pat's childhood, along with a certain mischievousness that continued throughout her long life.

Pat attended Seward schools but when it came time for high school her parents sent her to Seattle because Seward High was not yet accredited. After high school she was off to Fairbanks to the fledgling Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines, later to become the University of Alaska where she made many friends.

Next Pat was off to Seattle this time to the University of Washington. Since her parents told her to "use your own judgement" when it came to courses and majors, she chose French and Italian literature, along with Greek, Danish and Swedish. Later she lamented having taken such "frivolous" courses.

Pat saw Seward through good times and bad times. She championed many causes: helping form the Seward Volunteer Ambulance Corps and the Resurrection Bay Historical Society to which she donated artifacts for the museum's collection. She served several years on the board of directors of the Seward Chamber of Commerce.

She closely followed the actions of the city council throughout her life, even the last years when failing health forced her to move to Anchorage to live with her daughter and family. Pat had friends in Seward tape council meetings for her to watch. She was quick to call and scold an erring mayor or council member.

Pat worked at many jobs throughout herw life, from teaching school to clerking at the post office. From helping with the census; to doing payroll for the Alaska Steamship Company; or as bookkeeper when a regular employee was on vacation. After World War II she worked on the docks, checking longshoremen at beginning of a shift and again at the end, making friends with the men, sometimes fearing for their lives during cold and icy winter conditions. Later Pat worked for the Alaska Railroad in the same capacity but with added tasks. Then Pat ventured into business ownership, in real estate and insurance.

Pat, like her parents, was a lifelong Republican and once ran for the House of Representatives but lost to another Sewardite, Bill Erwin. From childhood on Pat was involved in the happenings of not only Seward but the whole of Alaska. She met President Harding on his trip to drive the golden spike for the then federally-owned Alaska Railroad. She met future President Hoover when he accompanied Harding. She knew every state leader, famous pilots and war heroes, treating all of them the same as just plain folk and always in a gracious manner. She never put on airs through she was truly our royalty.

Pat married Dr. Lowell Williams in 1935. Their first home was an apartment in the building most know as "Old Solly's," now owned by the National Park Service. A year later their son, Derick Lee, was born. And in 1940 he was joined by his sister, Patricia Caroline. In 1941 Pat and Dr. Williams divorced.

Patricia Ray Williams loved many things. She loved to swim, having been taught by her mother in the waters of First Lake, the community swimming hole. Pat loved to hunt and fish. She loved her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She loved a wee strong drink now and then along with a good wine and dark chocolate. But her longest and most enduring love was for Seward. She loved it through fire and flood, through earthquake and tsunamis, through near destruction to it's triumphs. In her own words, "There is a freedom here you don't have in other places. And the beauty of the area is unmatched – the mountains, and bay. You never tire of it."

Shortly before Pat died last year, her memoir, "There's a Freedom Here, My 100 years in Alaska."

Several LOG staff members contributed to this story.

 

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