Ouida (Welch) Williams 1/21/31 - 4/26/2020
Listen. The spirit of a larger than life East Tennessee personality now sings among the trees and flowers and in the hearts and minds of her many friends, admirers, and relations. Ouida Faye Welch Williams--who was known to burst into song from time to time--died quietly in her sleep April 26 in Knoxville. She was 89. Among her last words were, "I'm not afraid, and I'm not worried. I'll be okay. I've lived a wonderful life. I have the best family in the world."
Her first name, Ouida, was pronounced WE-da, and a pet peeve was when people turned that O into a Q in print. When we did it as a joke, she usually detected the prank and laughed along.
Known for her humor, artistry, courage, resilience, and boundless love of nature, she had a deep and abiding faith. She shared her love of nature and her love of God with everyone she knew, instilling a love of our sometimes crazy world in her accomplished children and grandchildren.
She daily pointed out nature's wonders, from technicolor sunsets to slippery salamanders. Such wonders were reflected in the landscapes and portraits she began painting about middle age, and which often won ribbons at fairs. It was also reflected in several poems that saw publication.
An avid reader, she was an accomplished student growing up in Sparta and Caryville, Tennessee, where she skipped two complete grades before her junior year. She recited poems, read the entire set of an encyclopedia and knew most of the Bible by heart.
She often spoke fondly of her childhood, and especially loved living among wooded hills overlooking Caryville, where she was often assigned to draw water from a spring for her mother and two siblings. She loved following deer trails into the woods to make moss-lined castles out of stumps, where she chased blue-tailed lizards and squirrels and birds that sang among the trees and rock formations.
In 1946 she met the love of her life, Ladonuel "Don" Williams, a handsome man who'd just returned from Europe after fighting in the Battle of the Bulge during WWII.
A Gospel singer who could whistle like a bird--literally, with chirps and trills unlike any whistler you ever heard--he embarked upon a singing ministry in the 1950s with a guitar player named Earl Mays. Soon the music of "Don and Earl" could be heard on radios all over the United States and in several foreign countries.
Rather than pursuing her ambitions, Ouida followed Don with her growing family, in service to his ministry. They lived in South Carolina and Texas among other places before settling in East Tennessee. In 1957 they moved to a stone house in Seymour, TN.
There the couple raised five children among hills, woodlands, creeks and caves that spelled adventure and magic. She encouraged her children to take long hikes and bike rides, and sometimes led them to a new spring where she showed them minnows and craw-daddies, ferns and flowers and other wonders like those she'd loved growing up. She and Don grew giant gardens and harvested as many as 100 quarts of tomatoes or blackberries some summers.
She fed her spiritual needs at Bells Chapel Baptist Church, where she sang and taught Sunday School and directed a youth choir, and later at Valley Grove, where her membership remained until her death.
Sometimes it seemed she had nine lives, overcoming car wrecks, broken bones, a cancer scare, burst appendix, diabetes, a pancreas operation and much else.
Perhaps her greatest challenge, however, was when her husband died of cancer in March, 1985.
After her husband's death, Ouida swam away her sorrow and then sought work in stores and shops and took temporary assignments--such as U.S. Census work--before settling into a clerical job at the Sevier County Health Department. Although a widow for 35 years, she remained true to her lamented first love, and even published a poem about his good looks, "The Man Who Loved Mirrors."
She watched with pride as her children grew into accomplished grownups. Her son Rod, an Air Force veteran, served ten years as a Nashville Metro Councilman and now runs one of Nashville's most successful blogs. Her daughter Rebecca's floral creations from her own cut flower farm, Sycamore Creek, have graced numerous weddings and funerals. Her middle child, also named Don Williams, became a prizewinning writer, columnist and publisher. Tim is co-founder and CEO of 21st Mortgage, one Knoxville's largest employers. Kathleen was so inspired by her experiences among woods and trees that she founded the Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation, now known as TennGreen, that has saved untold natural wonders from reckless development.
Along the way her children introduced their children and grandchildren to Nana or Granny Ouida, as she's often called. Without exception they adore her and not so long ago looked forward to seeing Nana, for stories or songs or exploring with her or swimming in wild rivers or the ocean. This grand and gracious woman's spirit now rolls down the ages and sings among the trees. Listen. Maybe now she knows how much she's loved.
She is preceded in death by her late husband Ladonuel "Don" Williams; her mother Lena (Carter) Welch Simmons Fowler and father Basil Welch; her sister and brother-in-law Lila Jane McCalman and Pete McCalman, and her brother Basil Welch. She is survived by two daughters, Rebecca Mandel (Dale) and Kathleen Williams-Mooradian (Don); three sons Rod Williams (Louella) Don Williams (Jeanne) and Tim Williams (Amy); grandchildren Wayne Williams (Misty), Jenny Cook (Brian), Rachel Bennett (Joshua), Alexis Williams (Brent), Travis Williams (Carrie), Justin Williams (Magye); Rebecca Moody (Jonathan) and Joey Mooradian; sister and brother-in-law Linda Upchurch and Richard Upchurch; sister-in-law Shirley Welch; eleven great-grandchildren and numerous beloved nieces and nephews. Special thanks to her recent companion Cheri Spivey and her friends Marty, Anna and the Seymour Library Book Club and her little dog Oreo too.
The family will have a private graveside service. A memorial service will be held at a later date. The family is requesting that in lieu of flowers contributions may be made to Friends of Seymour Branch Library 137 W. Macon Lane, Seymour, TN 37865. Condolences can be made to Gentry Griffey Funeral Home, Knoxville.
Gentry Griffey Funeral Chapel is honored to serve the Williams family and invites you to view and sign the online registry.
Read the beautiful obit through the Musepaper April newsletter. Sincere condolences and I will be inspired by the wonderful life Ouida lived!
We will miss Ouida’s reminisces, her generous heart and especially her laugh. We are thinking of all her fine family and send our condolences. Lucy and Rich Henighan
Don and Jeanne, we share in your grief. Louise and Jim Rugh.
My beautiful Granny Ouida. She will be missed every day!
Loved working with Ouida at CROSS. She was ver6 interesting to talk with. Never forget one morning none of m6 co-volunteers appeared, the rule was we have two volunteers present before opening the door. I called Ouida as her name was on the substitute list to come if needed. She said I had an appointment for my dog, but I’ll reschedule it and come right on. She appeared within minutes. She always had a kind loving heart.
Jeanne and Don, sending love and prayers to you and yours during this sad time. The obituary is beautiful.
Sincere condolences from Dorsey Lou Woliver
Dr. and Mrs Clarence Duncan Don and Earl helped me in a number of service in the prisons. Don and Earl and their wives stay all night in our home in Woodstock Ga. I assure the family that I will be praying for you. I have many good memories fo Don and Earl.
Tim, Amy and Family: We had the honor to meet and get to know Ouida Williams, on a couple flights to and from Florida with Tim flying. We were both immediately taken in by her sweet affection and love for her family. Parents can never talk enough about their children, grandchildren and especially great grand children. Her pride was extremely apparent and she enjoyed the conversation about spending time with Tim and Amy in Florida. She was a wonderful lady in every sense of the word. It was a special meeting with a very special person whom on earth can never be replaced but in Heaven the angels rejoice at the addition of another special arrival. It is never easy to say goodbye to those we love but what a blessing it will be to see them again in Heaven someday! Until that time we are praying for you all and asking for peace that only God can provide. In our prayers, Bart and Penny Mize
Dear Tim, Amy, Wayne, Jenny and Family: We are so sorry to learn of the passing of your mother and grandmother. May your find solace in the many memories you have of this remarkable person. Peace and love. David and Pam Jordan
I was Ouida's deacon for several years and me and my wife visited her many times. She always looked forward to my visits and she was always pleasant and entertaining. Her stories of her family and of her husband Don and his singing were always interesting and she enjoyed telling them immensely. I only wish I had more time to spend with her and learn more about her life. I called her when the pandemic struck and she told me to come visit her "but not until this is over!!!". A lovely lady in ever sense of the word. She was loved by many people, as I found out when talking to others about her. She will be greatly missed.
Tom & Linda Simpson, Valley Grove Baptist Church
Lovely obituary, catching the wonderful nature of this delightful lady. Will be mourned by all who had the good fortune to know her! Sympathies to all her family.
Bob and Karen
I was saddened to hear of Ouida’s passing. For a few years, I was her Sunday School teacher at Valley Grove, and as was the case with most of the others in that class, I always believed she and they taught me much more than I was able to teach them. Rest In Peace Mrs. Williams.
Jenny, Wayne and families, my sincere condolence on the loss of your grandmother. She left a beautiful legacy. May sweet memories with her visit you often. Much love. Gail Sides
Kathleen, so sorry to hear of your mother’s passing. The beautiful obituary makes me wish I had known her. She is surely singing in heaven’s choir now. Praying for you and your family 🙏🏻 Teresa Caughron Boling
Tim and Amy,
I am so sorry to hear of your loss. Mother's are always special. Sounds like yours was extra-special.
Batesville Casket Co.
What a beautiful tribute to a wife, mother and grandmother! Although I did not know her personally, I wish I had met her. I do recall the singing duo known only as “Don & Earl” who were very popular on the radio and when they came to the rural parts of the county, people came out in droves! I recall many revivals held in tents and they always uplifted the people with their singing. I did not know that Don was married to this amazing lady who supported his ministry. I regret not meeting her! My sympathy to her family.
To Don and Jeanne and your family: She sounds like an exceptional, beloved woman, and a person who was an inspired guide and teacher to you all. What a wonderful life she led.
Tim. With deepest sympathies in the loss if your Mother. Rhonda and Bill Benson
Jenny and family- I am so sorry for your loss. I think of your grandmother almost everyday when I drive by her house and have always enjoyed seeing her flowers. It was a pleasure to meet her, and your love and affection for each other was precious. Praying for peace during this difficult time.
Ouida was a wonderful woman and a good neighbor. I went by and had several sit down talks with her. I should visited more often for she was a woman of great knowledge and kindness. I miss my mom every day and I know your family will miss Ouida the same . My thoughts and prayers are with your family during this time.
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