Port Townsend, Wash.
Oct. 21, 1950 – Jan. 15, 2017
Gregg Williams was a man of few words and many friends. Undeterred by his limitations, Gregg sought to be that larger-than-ordinary-life hero, flawed but true to himself and the people he loved. His own heroes wore badges and sat tall in the saddle; commanded starships and the attention of women; and no matter how hard they fell, always got up to wrestle with the world again. Gregg did much the same.
Born with Down Syndrome, Gregg’s public face belied his character. He existed outside the mainstream to all but those who looked past his obvious differences to see him as he saw himself: confident and commanding, unabashed in his likes and dislikes; a protector, with a responsibility to others. He preferred to wear black, a polished badge, and a manly watch. He loved kissing women (back of the hand or both cheeks), slow dancing, backseat driving, Coca Cola, WWE, John Wayne, James T. Kirk and Elvis. Snapping his fingers and swiveling his hips, Gregg would sing with the King with such feeling you just had to join in, never mind he was way off-key and muddled the lyrics. Invited on stage by an Elvis impersonator at a local casino last year, Gregg gave it his all—just months after being hospitalized with a serious illness.
For more than 25 years, Gregg lived and worked in Port Townsend. It was home, and he was proud of his community, the work he did at the recycling plant and the jump rope factory, the friends he made—among them some very special caregivers, who not only gave him more independence but became extended family.
Gregg celebrated his last birthday with family and friends at the Bayview Restaurant, his favorite haunt in Port Townsend. A natural bon vivant, Gregg enjoyed strolling down Water Street, past the shops and galleries. When family visited, he’d insist on a promenade, offering an arm in the manner of a gentleman, to his sisters, young nieces and nephews. Chivalry was part of his code. Yes, he could be bossy, headstrong and tetchy, play the television too loud, and get into trouble. He'd get bored, fed up, put out, frustrated, lonely and depressed. Just like anybody else. What defined him was a bold love of life.
In the hours before his death from pneumonia, he kissed a nurse and laughed; tasted a Coke and loudly sighed “aah” and reached out with joy to hold family and friends close. “Share the wonder,” Gregg often said, repeating a line from a favorite infomercial. “Share the wonder!” That he did.
Gregg is preceded in death by his parents, Lois Jean and William L. Williams. He is survived by six sisters and brothers, nieces and nephews, friends and caregivers, who will remember him with tremendous love.
A celebration of life will be held in Gregg Williams' honor at the Bayview on Saturday, Feb. 18, from 2-4 p.m. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the National Down Syndrome Society (www.ndss.org) or community-centered charity.