Remembering Tab Williams

A Great Community Leader: 1927-2016

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Railey: Tab Williams had our backs, and Winston-Salem is the better for it

As appeared in the Winston-Salem Journal – 10-30-2016


Somewhere in the things Tab Williams left behind are probably some letters he loved, ones that bear testimony to his greatest achievement.

Arthur “Tab” Williams Jr. of Winston-Salem, who died Tuesday, accomplished a lot in his 88 years. He served in the Army just after World War II. He built a thriving gas-station and restaurant business and was the patriarch of a fine family. He tirelessly served his church, St. Paul’s Episcopal, and tirelessly served on numerous community boards.

“We lost a great community leader. His work will be remembered for a long time here,” Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines told the Journal’s John Hinton.

 I’m betting Williams , after his family, was proudest of the Winston-Salem adult day-care center named for him and his first wife, the Elizabeth and Tab Williams Adult Day Center, which has shepherded thousands of people and their families through what can be a heartbreaking, terrifying time.

Elizabeth Williams, a beloved community member, died of cancer in 1998. Williams eventually married another fine woman, the former Linda Chipman. And Tab Wiliams, a warm leader who was humble and kind, never stopped supporting the center and Senior Services.

The center came about after another fine leader, the Rev. Dudley Colhoun of St. Paul’s, persuaded Williams to serve on the Senior Services board. Here’s how Senior Services President Richard Gottlieb explained it to me Friday in an email:

At the time that Tab joined the board, Senior Services was dreaming of building a new center for people with Alzheimer’s disease. Prior to that, Senior Services rented facilities or used church fellowship halls to provide care during the day for people with memory loss, but the prevalence of the problem was growing and our facilities were inadequate for providing quality care. Tab’s father-in-law had dementia and he witnessed firsthand the struggles of a family caring for someone with memory loss. In those days, not as much was known about Alzheimer’s disease and people didn’t talk as freely about the subject. Tab and his wife Elizabeth made a generous lead gift in 1998 to the “Blueprint for Dignity” campaign of Senior Services to build a day center for people with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.

As a Journal reporter, I had the privilege of watching the center take shape, from the time Gottlieb described it as a dream. Tab and Elizabeth Williams were the ideal folks to help bring it to fruition. As I wrote about them in 1998, “Tab and Elizabeth Williams don’t like to talk publicly about their philanthropy. But behind the scenes, they have encouraged others to donate to community causes.”

Tab Williams told me then: “We have been very fortunate and blessed over the years. You have to continue to think that God is doing what he had planned for you.”

ss_logo_program_etwadcWith Tab Williams’ gentle pushing and the help of donations from throughout the community, the center opened in 2000. It was a hit from start, providing much-needed comfort and respite. On visits, I’ve seen how caring the staff are in comforting clients and their families. Onr year, it was named the best adult day health center in the country by the National Adult Day Services Association.

We all know loved ones who have been through memory loss. Too many of us have seen it close up. It’s a hard road, one that is often lonely, one that any of us could find ourselves on. Thank God for those who have eased that journey and continue to do so. They abide.

The memorial service for Tab Williams was Friday. But he and Elizabeth Williams will live on through that center. Many of those who use the center let Tab Williams know just how important it is to them.

“Over the years, many family caregivers wrote letters of appreciation to Tab Williams describing how much the Williams Adult Day Center helped them, and Tab cherished these notes,” Gottlieb told me.

Somewhere, those letters live. And so does the legacy of Tab and Elizabeth Williams.

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