Humble and Kind: The Legacy of Willie Theyon Adams [IN REMEMBRANCE]

Willie Theyon Adams

Today we attended the memorial service for an old friend, Willie Theyon Adams of Monroe, La. He wasn’t famous. He didn’t leave behind a vast estate or change the world with new inventions. No monuments will be erected in his honor. And yet, his legacy is one that will be remembered and carried in the hearts of his friends and family for many years to come.

During his 62 years on Earth, I don’t think we ever knew Willie when he wasn’t plagued with some type of health problem. He was diabetic, legally blind, and was even on dialysis multiple times per week until he finally got the kidney transplant he so desperately needed. Yet, despite all that, he didn’t complain. Instead, he was funny, affable, and genuinely concerned about others even when he was suffering himself.

In a society where self-promotion is not only allowed but increasingly expected, Willie consistently sought ways to help others first. He was a man of deep faith, and he always looked for opportunities to share his beliefs, confident that a relationship with God would carry people through their toughest tribulations. He even helped talk friends through dark moments when he was laid up in the hospital himself.

Listening to others share stories about him today during the memorial service, it was evident how much people treasured him, and respected him for his unflagging kindness and humility. I always admired those things about him too, as well as his sweet disposition and contagious sense of humor. But there was something else too.

I met Willie because he was brother-in-law to one of my very best friends, and as a result he and his wife Paulette quickly became part of my extended family. Often, when I would go spend time with my friends Don and Sharon Fort in Dallas, Chicago, or Shreveport; Paulette and Willie were never far behind. We soon found ourselves at many of the same events, beginning from my years as a teen, long before I met and married Heather.

I doubt Willie ever even knew it, but I always enjoyed watching how he treated Paulette. Oh, how he treasured her! The love between them was palpable, and even when he was cutting up and laughing with everyone else at the table, I noticed how he would steal looks at his wife or reach over and touch her hand, casually, tenderly. It was beautiful to watch, and it made me want that in my own marriage one day, that natural affection that just ran over them like a river. They were definitely a team, with a relationship built on love and respect, and it resulted in a marriage that lasted 38 years.

It was good to see that Paulette was in good spirits today, flanked by family and reminiscing about Willie and how he would find ways to sneak sweets at every opportunity, even when he really shouldn’t have been eating them. It was one of his few vices, and one that was a public secret among his friends. More than 400 people came together today to remember Willie, to share stories after his memorial service and to celebrate his quiet but remarkable life. It was nice to hear Paulette laugh out loud remembering some of his antics.

Yet it was the other stories, the ones about the sacrifices he made on behalf of his friends and family—and even his neighbors—that likely made Paulette’s heart swell even more. She had been married to a real unicorn—one of those rare, truly good men—who would move mountains in order to lend support where it was needed, to encourage and motivate others, and in my case, even inspire.

Willie will be missed. But his legacy of love, compassion, kindness, humility and faith will linger in our hearts for the rest of our days. True, he was not a household name. But those of us who loved him will treasure that friendship forever. You see, Willie worked little miracles all the time. He quietly wove himself into the very fabric of our lives like a shimmering silver thread that gives our clothes that extra something special we didn’t even know we were missing. He made our lives beautiful simply for having known him.

About Jathan Fink
Jathan is a journalist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. He is also a travel junkie, foodie and jazz aficionado. A California native, he resides in Texas.

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