My Friend, Brent Williams

Today, I want to honor a dear friend, Brent Williams, who made his transition this past weekend. I want to tell you about this great man who lived with passion, helped so many, and changed the world. A little over two years ago, my world was completely shaken when Brent told me that he had been diagnosed with ALS and only had a few years to live. Here was my FRIEND of many years, someone who was so close that we called each other “Brother,” whose life was going to end in the not too distant future! Here was someone who was my hero, a robust man, a man with the powerful voice of an orator, a man who you knew really cared about you, a man I wanted to be around because he had a way of making me feel better about myself…who I now knew was not going to be on earth very much longer. His life was going to end much too soon for me and for all of us who knew and loved him. There are so many great stories I could tell you about his life. So much of what he did as a Rotarian was to build the leaders of the future. The litany of accomplishments in this regard is too long to do justice here. As a builder, I remember most fondly the times we went out and worked with our hands. When Hurricane Charley hit Southwest Florida, the area was without electrical power for weeks. Brent was part of the Rotary group who travelled to Arcadia to cook and serve thousands of free meals to hurricane victims. When a devastating hurricane hit the Gainesville area, Brent was part of the Rotary Responders, first serving on the ‘Chain Saw Gang’ and with the Rotary cooking team that served over 1,000 free meals to people in the area who had been without electricity for days. As a Rotarian, I could always see Brent as a living embodiment of Rotary’s 4-Way Test:

  • Brent lived TRUTH,

  • His diplomacy and tact would insure FAIRness to all concerned;

  • Brent’s honest actions built GOODWILL and created BETTER FRIENDSHIPS

  • His truth and fairness ensured that it would be BENEFICIAL to all concerned.

In his everyday life, Brent set the standard for us all to emulate. Brent was a beautiful soul and will be sorely missed; yet remembered for all the joy he gave to others. I will always be grateful for having had Brent in my life and I am a better person for having known him. Because he inspired so many to do good in this world, he left a legacy of service. He accomplished so much, helped so many, and left this world with only one regret - that he didn't have more time with his loving family. And this family is a true testament to his life. Naomi, a most caring, devoted wife; Catherine and Jarett, his two loving daughters; John and Jared, his two wonderful son-in-laws; and his two precious grandchildren (actually one grandchild and a 2nd will be born this week) were his heart in the good times and his strength in the bad. If there is any silver lining in all this, the knowledge of his limited time on Earth gave him the ability to tell many of the important people in his life how much he loved and appreciated them. To honor him every day, my intention is to remember Brent and all he taught me: to smile continually, to laugh with abandon, to serve others with conviction and to never miss an occasion to say, "I love you."

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