He truly woke each morning with a song in his heart. He provided a role model for all. Humble yet wise, smart and yet unassuming, he always expected the best of himself and his kids. He will be remembered as the man who taught us to snow ski, water ski, windsurf, hunt and treat people as equals regardless of their social standing. Every cribbage game well played, ski run enjoyed, joke well told and poem recited by memory provide a testament to this remarkable man.
Carter Williams was a friend of my father and grandfather. I’ve met him a few times and he had always had interesting things to say.
He was 95 when he passed away last week.
The following is from part of his obituary. Hopefully all of us are as thoughtful during our lives and leave as much of an impact on others.
Graduating from Jefferson County High School, he attended the University of Montana, graduating with a degree in economics and a subsequent law degree.
Refusing to allow school and later work to interfere with enjoying life became a recurring theme for Dad. He and his good friend Bob Fletcher lit out for Europe in 1937, billing themselves as Montana cowboys. They spent 10 months bicycling through pre-World War II Europe where they encountered people from all walks of life, including Mussolini’s son-in-law, members of Hitler’s Youth Movement and the ruler of Ireland. One of the stories Dad told often was of sitting around a bonfire with two Scottish boys, Bertie Brash and John, and two German boys, Otto and Ivan, who were members of Hitler’s Youth Movement. Otto posed the question, “What will you do when war comes?” a very foreign thought to Americans in 1937. Carter took that question to heart and wrote an original oration, winning first place in both the University of Montana and later the Montana State Oratorical Competition.
Following his return from Europe aboard an Italian tramp steamer where he developed an aversion to anything resembling pasta, he finished his law degree, graduating at the top of his class. After Pearl Harbor, he enrolled in the Civilian Pilot Training program, becoming a flight instructor prior to joining the Air Transport Command of the Army Air Corps. Having dodged an assignment flying “the Hump,” when one of his crew was diagnosed with trench foot and the crew was disbanded, Dad was reassigned and spent the latter war years stationed in Tripoli, Libya, in North Africa. Here he spent his time flying C46s east and west along the Mediterranean, playing tennis, winning poker games, riding motorcycles and generally making the world safe from serious military protocol.
. . . He met his wife of 62 years, Judy Birch, during his early years working as an attorney in the Ford Building. They married in March of 1949. They began their life together doing three of his favorite things: skiing in Sun Valley, dancing with his beloved Judy and playing poker. Later they would travel together to the 1952 Winter Olympics in Oslo, Norway, the 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley, sail through the Caribbean and visit Mexico with friends. Kids showed up . . . . His time in Great Falls was divided between family, the law firm, his various real estate adventures and his many civic duties. In addition to forming the United Way of Cascade County, he was president of the Cascade County Chapter of the American Red Cross, a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers farm club board of directors, president of the Montana Tennis Association and a founding member of the Benefis Hospital Foundation. He was also, and perhaps most importantly, a founding member of the Great Falls Ski Bums, a group dedicated to fostering the irresponsible pursuit of fun on long upturned sticks on a steep, slippery surface.
Dad often credited his success, professionally and personally, to his ability to pick good partners . . . and the greatest partner of all, his devoted wife Judy. . . .
Dad enjoyed the challenges of his business endeavors, which helped keep his fertile mind engaged. Although none of his children followed his path into the world of law or ranching, they did school him in skiing, windsurfing and hunting. In a moment of introspection, he said all things being equal, he would have rather been a ski instructor. He did give it his best shot, taking to the slopes every chance he got until his 90th year. Ever generous, he included the extended family, in-laws, out-laws, kids, grandkids and peripheral friends on his ski vacations. He effectively imparted the ski gene to his kids and grandkids, and their lives are richer because of it.
As much as Dad was devoted to enjoying his recreational pursuits, he was also devoted to family, extended family and clearly understood the importance of giving back and leaving a positive legacy. . . .
. . .
Dad exited the world in the same way he inhabited it, fiercely determined to do and be the best in all aspects of his life that he could control. In his later years with deafness and blindness overtaking him and shrinking his environment to a cocoon of family and an inner circle of caregivers and friends, he looked upon life with happy bemusement, still claiming to be the luckiest guy on the planet. He truly woke each morning with a song in his heart. He provided a role model for all. Humble yet wise, smart and yet unassuming, he always expected the best of himself and his kids. He will be remembered as the man who taught us to snow ski, water ski, windsurf, hunt and treat people as equals regardless of their social standing. Every cribbage game well played, ski run enjoyed, joke well told and poem recited by memory provide a testament to this remarkable man.