The Measure of a Man: Remembering Alex Williams
How you take the measure of a man?
This is a question that humans have struggled with since the dawn of rational thought. Philosophers, theologians, and laymen have pondered, posited, and opined on the subject for millennia. The answer is, to us, simple: A man’s life is measured in the lives of those he has helped and those he has loved.
By any reckoning, Alex Williams was a giant, standing head and shoulders above the rest of us.
For 27 years, Mr. Williams touched the lives of thousands of students, parents, and coworkers at Tanglewood Elementary School. Nominally the Safety and Security Officer, Mr. Williams was, in actuality, the rock of the school: supporter, cheerleader, defender, and champion of students and staff alike.
Sadly, Mr. Williams passed away on January 13th. Born with an enlarged heart and sickle cell anemia, few knew of the depth of his physical pain; he hid it well. A post on the Tanglewood Moms Facebook page about his untimely passing drew hundreds of comments from people telling stories of the depth and breadth of his great heart.
Mr. Williams was a gift to all who were blessed to know him. He made an impact on so many families, and we will never forget him, and his legacy will live on! He made a big impact on my son Carson and we adored him. He made everyone feel so special. A gentle giant and Saint among Men. – Amy Level-Hearn
I loved Mr. Williams. He was so kind and always knew what to say to cheer you up or make you laugh. I went to Tanglewood in the ‘90s, and he was one of the most memorable parts of my time there. – Mel Wilmoth Navarro
Mr. Williams started working at Tanglewood when I was in third grade, and I’ll always remember him and the positive impact he had on me. My best friend and I talked to him every day while we were waiting for our parents in the carpool line, and he’d have us cracking up the whole time. His smile was contagious, and I’ll never forget him saying, “Friday, Friday, good ol’ Friday.” He was a true treasure. – Annalise Martinec
There are so many stories I could share, but some of my favorite times with Mr. Williams were in my years of chairing the Mother-Son Dance at Tanglewood. Every year he manned the door. As every boy walked in, he stopped them and taught them to open the door for their mother. He gave them a little talk about treating their mom with respect and he emphasized what a special night it was with their mother. The ultimate gentleman. Mr. Williams will be so greatly missed. – Cara Bozarth
While I am mourning the loss, I am celebrating his life because he ingrained in those young kids that kindness and attitude was what people remember most. The kids at Tanglewood loved him because of how he made each of them feel seen and loved. – Jamie St. Peter
My children struggled socially at Tanglewood. Mr. Williams was always there to be a Four Square partner or just to talk to them at recess. He loved them, and they are better people because of him. Personally, he was a friend. I was a copy mom for years, and he always stuck his head into the copy room to say hi. If he weren’t busy, he’d come in, and we’d talk Longhorns football and Rangers Baseball. He was the heart and soul of the school. His heart just wasn’t big enough to hold all that love. – Lee Geurkink
Speaking at his memorial service, Tanglewood Elementary School principal Dana McKenzie recounted a story. “One of my first memories of Mr. Williams was back in August of 2013. It was the first week of school, and I was the new assistant principal. I had a rough day and was standing on the front steps of school during dismissal. Back then, we were dismissing over 700 students each day, and it would have been easy for Mr. Williams not to notice me in the crowd. But he did. He had only known me for a few weeks, but he immediately noticed my smile was missing. He called to me from his bullhorn down on the sidewalk, ‘Ms. McKenzie! You’re doing a great job. Get that smile back on your face. Tomorrow is a new day.’ That’s the gift that Mr. Williams had. He saw you. He knew your name, he knew your heart, and knew how to bring you back to what was important.”
If you found yourself near Tanglewood Elementary on any given Friday, you were guaranteed to hear Mr. Williams booming his signature line through his bullhorn: “FRIDAY, FRIDAY, FRIDAY!” to which chorus of children (and parents) would answer, “GOOD OLD FRIDAY!”
Mr. Williams’ life was one of selfless service to others. Principal McKenzie said of him, “Everybody loved him, and I think if we could talk to him, he would say, ‘Keep going. Keep loving on those kids.’“
Thank you, Mr. Williams. Generations of children grew up knowing that they were safe and loved because of your great heart. Rest in peace.