Mrs. Avis Sullivan is doing well today. She was up and walking early this morning. Please continue to remember “Miss” Avis in your prayers.
Major Bernard “Ben” Richard Williams, Jr.,
Bernard Richard Williams, Jr., age 84, died peaceably on Friday, July 18, 2008 at his home in Osyka, Mississippi, from pancreatic cancer. Born to Bernard Richard Williams, Sr. and Ruby Dean Ott Williams and reared in Osyka, Ben graduated from Osyka High School in 1940 at the age of 16. After attending Copiah-Lincoln Junior College for one year, he enrolled at Louisiana State University, the “The Old War Skule” that he dearly loved for the remainder of his life.
After the US entered World War II, Ben promptly volunteered and was inducted as a flying cadet into the U.S. Army Air Corps, the forerunner of the USAF, in 1942. He learned to fly an airplane before he learned to drive an automobile. He was called to active duty in 1943 and served as a fighter pilot with combat missions in Pisa, Italy. While ferrying a plane to Italy via South America, he narrowly escaped death from a mid-air collision landing for which he was recognized for his skill in crash landing the aircraft and the survival of his crew. While home on leave in August, 1945, with his next mission scheduled for the invasion of Japan, the A bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Ben returned to LSU and graduated in 1951 with a BS degree in agriculture and as a distinguished military graduate. He also received a regular commission as a 2nd Lt. in the USAF in 1951 and became a test pilot for aircrafts sent to Korea during the Conflict. Ben returned again to his beloved LSU as an ROTC instructor from 1958-62, also earning his MS degree in Horticulture. During the Cold War, he was on alert in Labrador and Cape Cod, an assignment he would characterize as the most stressful. Ben volunteered to serve in a top secret unit called Stray Goose during the Vietnam Conflict, with his first combat mission being flown on Christmas Eve night, 1966. After serving 3 combat tours in Vietnam, he retired in 1969 as a Major. In his military career he logged12,000 flying hours and survived 500 combat missions.
Ben worked for the Mississippi Game and Fish Commission in public relations with Paul Ott from 1969-73, writing many environmental and wildlife television spots and publications. In 1974 he returned one more time to LSU as a PhD student and on the staff of the LSU Horticulture Department where he specialized in poinsettia research. Desiring to give his children the opportunity to be raised in his beloved Osyka, he moved his family there in 1980 and continued his research at the LSU Experiment Station in Robert, LA. After his final retirement in 1985, he planted and produced peaches and blueberries on his farm in Osyka.
He served 25 years as a trustee on the Board of Directors of the Southwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center, the longest serving trustee, and was very proud to be part of the growth of the facility. Following in the footsteps of his father, he was a member of the Masonic Rising Glory Lodge #315. He had been a member of Osyka Baptist Church since he was 9 years old.
Preceding him in death are his parents and brother, Dr. Kenneth Ott Williams. He is survived by his wife of 35 years, Linda Shanks Williams; son, Bernard Richard Williams, III and his wife, Rachel, and their daughters, Sydney Ellen and Caroline; daughter, Lou Ellen Williams; daughter, Kay W. Knight and her husband, Scott, and her daughter, Adrienne LaFrance; sister-in-law, Dr. Nancy Burrow Williams.
A service of celebration of his life will be held on Monday, July 21, 2008 at Osyka Baptist Church with visitation from 2-6 PM and services at 6 PM and burial in the Osyka Cemetery. Arrangements are provided by Hartman-Sharkey Funeral Home. Services will be conducted by Dr. Milton Kliesch, pastor of Osyka Baptist.
Memorials may be sent to the Osyka Veterans Park, Inc., P.O. Box 402, Osyka, MS 39657 or to the Computer Fund, Osyka Baptist Church, P.O. Box 152, Osyka, MS 39657.
Special thanks go to the compassionate professionals at Community Hospice and to Ben’s sister-in-law, Patsy S. Rice, who so gently cared for him during the last weeks of his life. When word of Ben’s illness spread, friends from the East to West Coast of our great nation came to reminisce and pay homage to their fellow soldier, classmate, teacher, and mentor. His cousins, in-laws, nieces, and other relatives, too numerous to name, provided comfort and attended to his needs. The family wishes to thank everyone for the support and love shown to us. May God bless each of you.