For Joey Williams, working at the Lynn Meadows Discovery Center wasn’t a job. It was his life.
“He worked at Lynn Meadows but he also donated countless hours to our Wings program,” said Tonya Hays, Wings Performing Arts director. “He was so committed to working with the kids and assisting them. He helped them and he also mentored them.”
Joseph Michael ‘Joey’ Williams, 48, of Gulfport died June 21, less than a month after he learned he had bile duct cancer, or cholangiocarcinoma. “It was very fast. They said it was an extremely aggressive case,” his sister Michelle Stewart said. Services are 2 p.m. June 25 at the Riemann Family Funeral Home, 11280 Three Rivers Road, Gulfport, with visitation one hour prior.
Lynn Meadows is also planning a celebration of life at a later date.
Williams was the youngest of five children. “We were all stair-steps, and he was the baby of the family, the baby stair-step,” Stewart said. “He was very sweet, very kind. It’s hard to picture him any other way. Everybody loved him.”
He was a gifted musician who could play several instruments.
“He was completely self taught; he couldn’t read music but he could pick it up, and he was very good teaching music to the kids. Any stringed instrument, he could play. So every time they had a show with something stringed, he played for it,” Stewart said.
Williams was technical director at Lynn Meadows. And for the museum’s Wings program, he worked with the lights, projection. sound boards and other matters concerning productions. When the children’s museum became established in 1998, a niece and a nephew joined, and Willliams found his perfect niche.
“He painted those big dots in the parking lot for a Dr. Seuss production,” Stewart said, and after right after Hurricane Katrina, he busy cleaning out the heavily damaged property.
“He could fix anything, too,” Hays said. Children involved in the program gained behind-the-scenes technical knowledge and appreciation from Williams.
“Up to the end, he was worried about the kids. He asked, ‘Did I teach them enough?’ He was so concerned about not being there for them,” Hays said.
Up to the end, he was worried about the kids. He asked, ‘Did I teach them enough?’ He was so concerned about not being there for them.
Tonya Hays, Wings Performing Arts director at Lynn Meadows
His sister echoed that.
“Just before he died, he said, ‘Tonya, make sure this or that gets taken care of for the show,’ ” Stewart said.
Recently, LMDC dedicated the technical booth as ‘The Joey’ in his honor, and Hays said the Joseph Williams Scholarship Fund has been established at Lynn Meadows.
“He was a mentor, a father figure, to so many of these kids over the years,” Hays said. “I’ve been getting calls and texts from Wings kids who now live all over the country asking, ‘What can I do? How can I honor Joey?’”
Williams had two cats, including one that adopted him. This outdoor cat became an indoor cat once Williams became ill.
“That cat clearly belonged to him. It would lie by his side while he was in hospice and stayed there the whole time, until about five minutes before he passed away,” Stewart said. “And then, after he passed, it walked out of the room. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Williams’ kindness is the overall quality that most people identify with him, Hayes said.
“Recently I went through a rough time and I was really down,” Hayes said. “He wanted to go to Jazz Fest to see Dave Matthews but I didn’t really want to because I was down. Well, he really made me go along with them, and it really helped lift my spirits. He was just like that. He would send you a goofy text or do anything to make you smile.
“He was so brave, so good, so compassionate in his illness,” his sister said. “He was so concerned about everyone else. He apologized to our parents for what he called the trouble he was being. I pray I’d handle something like that the same way if it ever happens to me.”