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Jazzed about the possibilities: Remembering Michael Williams

Posted Saturday, February 16, 2008, at 11:46 PM

Memorial services were held Feb. 2 for Michael Williams, who died suddenly Dec. 17 as a result of natural causes. I found out about his death at the Malta Bend school board meeting that night. He been teaching music there again after retiring from the Slater school district.

"He was the most enthusiastic person I've ever known," said Superintendent Melissa Vesser.

I didn't know Michael well, but from the few times I'd talked to him I'd have to agree with Melissa's comment. I remember when he appeared before the board in September to offer his services. He said, "I really am jazzed about the possibilities."

Jazzed. Good word for the guy.

I was also impressed at the time with the testimonials by school board members, several of whom commented on the impact Williams had on their children.

He seemed to me like the kind of teacher whose love of music was rivaled only by his love of the people he taught and performed with.

It occurred to me that it might be nice to invite members of the community who were influenced by Michael to share stories about how he affected their lives. I know he was integral to the music scene in Saline County for years, not only as a teacher but as a performer with the philharmonic, the municipal band, the community chorus, various church choirs and gospel groups.

I imagine quite a lot of people around here have stories to tell ...

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Michael was my high school band teacher when he was at Malta Bend the first time.

What I remember most was how he made sure to point out how each individual instrument was important to the overall sound of the band. We were a small band when I was there, however not the smallest Malta Bend has seen. Michael would briefly stop class to go over the notes that someone had trouble with, or meet after school, before school, or whenever just so that student could play their part confidently. He would always make a point to tell that student when they had improved, and would help more if they had not.

He had a major influence with the elementary children also. When they were loud in class, he would just stop and raise his hand. Soon all the children were sitting quietly raising their hands also, waiting for him to go on.

I think he was a tremendous asset to the music department, but moreover, to the school as a whole. He had said that his time at Malta Bend was his favorite, and that is why he wanted to come back, it was fitting that this was the finale to his teaching career, in a place that he loved as much as it loved him. He will be greatly missed.

-- Posted by btb005 on Mon, Feb 18, 2008, at 6:18 AM

Michael was gentle, caring, kind, talented, humorous and witty. When he and I first became colleagues, Michael immediately asked, "What can I do for you to make you more comfortable?"

He truly expected me to answer because his caring for others, whether they be colleagues, students or strangers, was real. He continued to extend his help almost daily; when asked how he became so thoughtful, Michael responded, "My mother...it's all her influence" and went on to celebrate his mother's virtues often.

Michael impressed me and others with his vast knowledge of and appreciation for the cultural world including his enthusiasm and love for the Alvin Ailey dancers whose artistic contributions Michael loved to tout and whom Michael loved to see perform.

Michael is missed; his life counted for much and influenced many. I can see that shiny, bald head and those twinkling eyes as he grins upon hearing all this and says, "Come on, now. I was just having fun!"

Having fun he is in that celestial choir, proud of the opportunity to continue performing music, his great love. Shalom, Michael, Shalom...

-- Posted by zanyjanie on Tue, Mar 4, 2008, at 10:31 PM

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Eric Crump is a former editor of The Marshall Democrat-News. He lives elsewhere now but still loves Marshall and Saline County. He's trying to catch up on all the stories he should have written while he was on staff.
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