‘You have made a difference’: J-M family celebrates the life of teacher Mike Williams

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SILER CITY — Dozens of notes line the hallway of Jordan-Matthews High School honoring the life of Mike Williams — a well loved teacher who died in a car accident on Thanksgiving Day.

“I don’t know how to feel, but I truly miss you Mr. Williams,” one note reads. “You were an amazing teacher and friend.”

“GOAT (Greatest of All Time),” read several others.

“Mr. Williams, you were such a kind-hearted person. It’s all the small things that you did that made my day,” a note signed by someone named Fatima reads. “I really hope that you’re doing OK wherever you are. I just want to say thank you for everything because you have made a difference in my life.”

Williams, 56, worked as an educator for 25 years and at Jordan-Matthews since 2015, where he taught science and AVID, a college-preparation support program, and volunteered regularly at extracurriculars. Among his students, Williams was known for that “famous Mike laugh,” playing rock ‘n’ roll at 8 a.m. and for treating students like family. In recent years, he was also known for his long beard. He loved trivia, Ohio State Buckeye football, Scrabble, craft beer, and of course, the students and staff at J-M.

A celebration of life service was held to Williams at Jordan-Matthew last Friday, with around 250 people attending and more watching via livestream.

“Mike was giving, he was kind, he was funny, and most of all, he was a dedicated friend, mentor and teacher,” J-M Principal Donna Barger said Friday. “He made time for all of his students and they loved him back wholeheartedly. Mike would be so touched to see you all here today. He loved being part of an extended family, especially when we were celebrating something special.

“And let me tell you,” she continued, “Mike Williams was that something special.”

Many students shared on Friday that Williams provided them with a safe place at school, encouraged their dreams, lent a listening ear and honest advice.

During remote learning in 2020, he wanted to make sure all of his AVID students had a yearbook to commemorate their senior year after so many pandemic challenges.

In the end, he bought 12 yearbooks.

“Everything he did for his students, he did for his students,” former J-M student Wilson Ramos Meza said.

Meza recounted the time he asked Williams’ to write his recommendation for college — the day it was due.

“He never brushed us off. Instead he was there, always. Nothing was too big or too small for him. Trust me, I know,” Meza said. “... Let’s remember Mr. Williams for everything he did for people. All the big things and all the little things.

“Thank you Mr. Williams for listening when no one else did. Thank you for believing me, even when I didn’t,” Meza said, choking up. “Thank you for everything.”

Williams was born in Stuttgart, Germany, and was the son of and preceded in death by Ronald Williams and Sofia (Daichendt) Williams.

He is survived by his sister, Lea (Williams) Cramer of Texas; former spouse, Amy Ford; aunts Sharon Parsons of Ohio, Beth Williams of Florida, Jo Ellen Sherow of Ohio, Barbara Wingert of Florida; and uncles, Larry Williams of Oregon, John Williams of Ohio, Jeff Williams (deceased), Mark Williams of Florida and many cousins. In Germany, Williams leaves his aunt and uncle, Heidi and Manne Nick, as well as their sons, Heiko and Thomas Nick.

Williams is also survived by his beloved dogs, Chewbacca and Jyn Erso, who have since found a new safe and caring home.

In remembrance of Williams, donations can be made to the Jordan-Matthews Science Department, the National Parks Foundation and St. Baldrick’s Foundation.

During the ceremony, friend and former coworker Matthew Fry performed a rendition of “Over the Rainbow” to honor Williams. Another friend and coworker, Rose Pate, read a poem by Robert Frost, which “summed up Mike’s loss.”

“Nature’s first green is gold, her hardest hue to hold. Her early leaf’s a flower; but only so an hour,” Pate read. “Then leaf subsides to leaf. So Eden sank to grief, so dawn goes down to day.

“Nothing gold can stay.”

“His quiet wisdom and good humor made him an outstanding teacher and treasured member of the Jordan-Matthews family,” Barger said. “His loss leaves a hole in our school family and a deep sadness in our hearts.”

You can view the celebration of life service here.

Reporter Hannah McClellan can be reached at hannah@chathamnr.com or on Twitter at @HannerMcClellan.

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