Walt Williams was a man of high character, unquestioned integrity, sharp intelligence, genuine faithfulness and undying loyalty. His life was marked with great accomplishments, healthy relationships, frequent laughter and unintentional charisma. In recent years, due to heart problems, he perceived his passing would be soon. He wrote a few simple lines of instructions for those he wanted involved in his service; “Don’t give me a lot of credit or praise. Mention my love for my wife, children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.” He added another line; “Favorite Bible Verse-Matthew 6:33.” His favorite verse helps us understand what shaped Walt into the man we knew and loved. He really did “seek first the Kingdom of Heaven” which on this earth is the church. The verse continues to seek first “His righteousness” which explains the standard by which we are to live. Walt loved the church throughout his entire life. He always sought to serve her and enlarge her. His life reflected the righteousness of God in all ways. He was blessed to be born to parents who reflected the righteousness of God.
Walter and Louise Williams gave birth to Walter Cernol Williams on January 29, 1933, while living in west Nashville. He was the firstborn of a family of six children. During his youth as well as throughout his life he fulfilled the role of the older brother taking care of others. When Walt was five years old the family moved to a 50 acre farm in Pleasant View in Cheatham County. This move was a major adjustment since they left indoor plumbing and electricity to live in a house which had neither. Coal oil lamps and outhouses became a part of their days and nights. Years later Walt would write about this time in his life saying this; “Moving from the city to a farm was quite an adventure for me. I explored the woods, fields and barns. I hunted squirrels with rabbit boxes to trap rabbits, and fished for bream and catfish in nearby Sycamore Creek. This is the same stream I was baptized in at the age of thirteen.”
Walt loved his home in Pleasant View as much as anyone could. After graduating from High School he attended Austin Peay University studying accounting. While attending Austin Peay he came home for a weekend which afforded the opportunity to see a sister’s high school annual. He spotted a beautiful girl and asked his sister who she was and if she knew her. Yes, his sister knew her and her name was Wava Jarrell. What Walt did next was so “Walt.” Walt has always been a writer. So Walt wrote her a letter. Since he didn’t have her address, he addressed it the school. He asked his roommate to put it the mail. His roommate lost it! So he wrote a second letter deciding to mail this one himself. A few days later Wava’s school gave her both letters! The first one looked like it had been “lost and found” and mailed!
His correspondence was a request for them to meet each other. Wava convinced her mother to let him come to their home on a Sunday afternoon. He accepted the offer. They met in her home and visited some with her parents. Then just the two of them went down by the river and talked for a while longer. In Wava’s words, “that is the way it began.” After a couple of years of dating and 62 years of marriage his letter writing proved to be valuable.
As a younger man Walt enlisted in the Airforce stationed most of the time in Southern California. Wava and he were newlyweds who were faithful members at Magnolia Street church of Christ in Riverside, California. After a few years in the Airforce they moved to Nashville where Walt worked in accounting. A year later he began working with Ford Motor Company. After about 25 years he retired from there. During Walt’s life his love for church was always seen in the way he loved the brethren, served in ministries and taught the lost. During the last few days of his life he wrote a request for a Bible to be mailed to a student he had been studying with through a correspondence course. Whether it was meals on wheels, deaf ministry, prison ministry or serving as a deacon or elder, Walt always gave of himself in service to His Master.
Walt loved his wife Wava, serving her faithfully as a loving leader of his family. They were such a great couple. One person said those two were just meant to be together; “Walt and Wava.” He loved his two sons Rick and Steve. His daughter-in-law and grandchildren praise him highly and he loved them dearly too. It is great to hear a man talk about his love for his family, but what a statement to hear Walt’s family speak so highly of their great love and admiration for him. He taught them the Bible and modeled a life shaped by it. Through the years he has written each of them letters and spent time fishing, bowling, traveling and laughing with them. He and Wava traveled together into all 50 states as well as Europe.
In the last few days Walt has been praised and remembered in many ways. These following are quotes others have said. Walt was a jokester and prankster. He loved friends and had a heart for God. He was a man with just the right amount of words. Whenever Walt spoke, everyone listened. He had a heart for missions, he was well-read and humble. He was a writer, an accountant and a mighty good man. He was soft spoken, but bold in doctrine. He never wavered in his love for God, his family and the church. He loved to travel, play dominos and talk.
Walt had mentioned several times lately the great peace he had in passing. He was like Paul in that he was ready; For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2Tim 4:6-8).
This peace wasn’t only in recent times. Years ago Rachel Petty expressed her concern about Walt going on a mission trip to Tegucigalpa, Honduras just a few days after having serious medical problems. Walt quickly looked at her and grinned saying, “Rachel, I can go to heaven from Tegucigalpa just as easy as I can from Hermitage.”
Because of God’s grace and Walt’s faith we believe he is doing better than ever. On January 5, 2017, he departed for the eternal land. We rejoice that he finished strong and faithful. He was victorious. But we grieve our own loss and for his dear family. We offer our deepest sympathy and prayers to Wava, Rick, Steve and all the family. We love you.