‘Larger Than Life’ Washington Teacher Remembered
If you met Jason Williams, chances are you walked away laughing.
Williams, a Jamestown native, brought levity and hard work to the 14 years he served as an educator at Washington Middle School. There, he went well beyond what he was asked to do as an English Language Arts teacher, as described by the people who knew him. He was known by many names, including “Mr. Williams,” “Jason,” “Jay” or “Jas” pronounced as “Jace” by his family. But whatever they called him, he was remembered as a caring person who was always making people laugh.
Williams, 40, died unexpectedly Sunday. He is survived by his wife, Holly, and two children, Andrew and Nathan. He is the son of Carl and Diane Marcello Williams.
“Jason was an angel on Earth,” Holly Williams said of her husband of 16 years.
She said while his death was abrupt, there are no regrets left behind. According to her, Jason Williams always let the people he cared about know how he felt.
“He was never afraid to express his feelings,” she said.
Williams wasn’t simply just a teacher at Washington. Melissa Emerson, Washington principal, described him as a “busy man.” He himself was a former “Lobo” – the school’s mascot – attending Washington when he was younger, a piece of historical trivia he was proud of.
“Jason was larger than life,” Emerson said. “He was such a great guy. Someone said to me the other day, ‘he had such a great soul’ and they’re absolutely right.”
Emerson praised the connections and relationships that Jason Williams curated during his career at Washington. After seeing the outpouring of emotions following his death, she was certain of the impact he had on the community.
“I knew it was deep, but I never realized it was as deep as what it is,” Emerson said.
Former students began emailing Emerson who are now grown with their own families expressing their condolences. Some, still in high school, attempted to visit Washington in the days following his death. Inside Washington, students were left in shock and in tears. Washington staff members accommodated those impacted by his passing in the days following.
“He was that guy that in his classroom if there was a way to make something come to life and add a little bit of fun to it, he found that way,” she said.
The Jamestown Public Schools District released a statement Monday regarding the death.
“We are all profoundly saddened by the loss of a beloved teacher, friend and Jamestown Public School family member,” the district said. “We extend our deepest sympathies to Mr. Williams’ family and friends during this very difficult time.”
A moment of silence was held for Williams at Tuesday’s board of education meeting.
At Washington, Jason Williams was involved with numerous extracurricular groups including a shared decision making committee, a Tier-1 PBIS team, a child study team and an after school book club with younger students. He also has been assisting in developing Washington’s musicals along with the school’s music teacher for 14 years.
Despite keeping busy, Holly Williams said being a father came first to her husband.
“If any of us needed anything, he would drop what he was doing and he was there,” his wife said. “He loved to spend time with his boys and he was always there for not only me and his boys, but his parents and really anyone he cared about. He was available to us.”
Outside of the classroom, Jason Williams was involved in theater, comedy and charity. He assisted in Toys for Tots drives and participated in the local MS awareness program for many years. His wife said the charity work gave him so much joy.
“He was the definition of a good human,” Holly Williams said.
Under the name “The Lights of Broadway,” Jason Williams and a few friends began a comedy group that developed a small, loyal following around the area. The comedy group, comprised of family members and friends, was a suitable outlet for him, Holly Williams said.
Oftentimes, people approach her and ask, “how are you not constantly laughing being married to Jason?” She joked that she was funny too, but admitted that much of her humor and openness can be attributed to her husband.
“His wit was so quick,” she said. “He would challenge me. We would banter back and forth. It was one of our favorite things to do. Whether we were in the car or getting coffee or whatever. To some people it may have been annoying and to some people it may have been cute – we didn’t really care.”
Holly Williams described Jason as an extrovert, a contrasting personality to her introverted tendencies. But the two opposites meshed well together working like “yin and yang,” as she described it.
“He sharpened my wit, just by being around him. I wanted to make him laugh like how he made me laugh,” she said. “His humor will continue to live on because we’ll share it and whether it’s the shows he did or the countless memories that we’re all sharing forever. We will let that live on.”
Whether through his comedy group, his teaching career, his sons or his blog (bobbingforpopcorn.com), Holly Williams was confident her husband would be remembered. Reflecting on what she’ll miss about him, she listed a few things that came to mind, “his laugh, his contagious laugh, his twinkling blue eyes, his awesome hugs, his beautiful singing voice, there’s so much.”