The Dawson County community is mourning the death of a civic volunteer and retired business leader.
Linda Williams, longtime president of the Dawson County Chamber of Commerce, died Aug. 8 after a period of declining health. She was 64.
Local business and public officials recognized her strength and perseverance during a chamber luncheon Aug. 9. Friends remembered her encouraging attitude and positive outlook on life.
Longtime chamber board member and friend Doris Cook said Williams was the epitome of positivity.
"She was always so positive, despite everything she had been through," she said.
Hired in 1996 as the chamber's information specialist, she was selected as president of the organization in 1999, when Dawson County was poised for tremendous growth.
Williams and husband Marty, who had served as the chamber's vice president of travel and tourism for several years, officially retired on July 2.
"I met her a few days before she turned 16 and it was love at first sight," Marty Williams recalled Monday.
"Next week we would have known one another for 50 years. The biggest thing for me now is trying to figure out how I am going to be without her ... She was such a kind person and she loved this community," he said.
At the couple's retirement party she said she was "blessed" by her association with the chamber through which she had met and worked with "so many wonderful people."
"I couldn't have written a better script for my life during these chamber years. It has truly been a blessing to serve this organization and each of you," she said on July 2.
Chamber members called her a mentor and the driving force behind the chamber's growth.
Chairwoman Jennifer Baker said she left a legacy.
"Linda absolutely put her heart and soul into the chamber. I don't think there has been any aspect of what has happened in this community that she hasn't somehow had her finger in or tried to support," Baker said.
Over the years, Williams underwent various medical treatments while still continuing to serve in the community. Friend and County Commissioner Gary Pichon recalled her perseverance.
"Having my own round or two with cancer, I can say she was a trooper. Even when she was in extreme pain she was strong," he said.
"I never heard her complain and she was always positive. She was grace under the pressure of pain ... I will miss her."
In January 2010, Williams spoke at the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life kickoff. She shared her story of surviving cancer before a crowd of nearly 100.
"I always went to the doctor with the attitude of, ‘Hey, I'm going into battle, and this chemo is my ammunition,'" she said.
She encouraged those with cancer and challenged the community to join in on the fight. Since then, Dawson County Relay for Life has continued to grow in participation and fundraising every year.
Williams was also an avid supporter of local veterans.
Pam Hamalainen, chamber membership director and president of Veterans Affairs of Dawson County, recognized her with a letter of appreciation on Veterans Day 2011.
"Linda was many things to many people, but to me she was my friend. She taught me true strength and courage. She taught me to smile through my trials and sorrows and to never give up," Hamalainen said.
For her position of leadership in the community, Williams was also a role model to other women breaking into the work force.
In March 2009, Williams was asked to speak at Featherbone Communiversity in Gainesville as a part of a program for female entrepreneurs.
Williams encouraged the business owners, saying they could be more than the '50s traditional occupations, including being a "secretary, nurse or teacher."
As chamber president, Williams managed various business initiatives, overlooked networking and business events and fostered an environment for economic prosperity.
She is survived by her husband of 45 years, Marty Williams; daughter, Angela Lackey of Brooks; granddaughters, Kayla Lackey and Rebecca McArthur; and sister-in-law, Joyce Arcement.
Memorial services will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday at the Bearden Funeral Home Chapel with the Pastor Ron Laney officiating.
The family will receive friends beginning at 10 a.m.
At the family's request, in lieu of flowers, donations may be made to: Dawson County Mentoring Program, P.O. Box 872, Dawsonville, GA 30534; or Dawson County Family Connection, P.O. Box 872, Dawsonville, GA 30534.
** For more on Williams, see this week's print edition of the Dawson Community News. **