Mary Williams Obituary (1928 – 2021) – Windsor, CA
Mary Louise Williams was born in Pasadena, California on June 5, 1928 and died on December 21, 2021, at the age of 93. Mary Lou spent 43 years in Palos Verdes raising a family of children and pets, then enjoyed the last 23 years of her life in Norco, California. Loving animals as much as her, it was only natural that she moved to a town with more horses than people.
Mary Lou was an animal lover, wife, mother, grandmother, aunt, sister and friend. She was the daughter of Rufus Edward Stearns of Sandusky, Ohio, and Mary Virginia Gardner Stearns of Watsonville, California. She graduated from Chadwick boarding school in Palos Verdes in 1946 and went on to study Russian literature at Reed College, her brother and sister’s alma mater, in Portland, Oregon. While at Reed, she met and fell in love with her husband, Bill Williams, who was visiting from the University of Colorado at Boulder. In college, she loved to ski, dance outright, break the rules (a lifelong hobby), stand up for her ideals, and sing.
After college, Mary Lou lived in San Francisco for a bit until her mother brought her back to Pasadena with the promise of horses. Her suitor, Bill, had moved to Los Angeles to work as an engineer in the aerospace industry. Upon moving south, he capitalized on her closeness and began seriously courting her until they married in 1956. Together, they spent 40 years in Palos Verdes, California, having the occasional martini or quarrel. while raising four children.
Mary Lou did one hell of a monkey impersonation. She suffered no fools (“room temperature IQ” was a favorite). But his main characteristic was his undying love of animals. His childhood was filled with them – a host of cats, springer spaniels, a goose named Caesar Agoosetus and a few Arabian horses.
As a mother, she took in an array of reptiles: two turtles, a handful of skinks, tarantulas, king snakes, at least one scorpion, a baby rattlesnake named Cuddles, dozens of alligator lizards, a pink boa and a snake six feet long. Burmese python. Once she brought home a pony, bought at an auction, in a VW bus. His hobbies were dog grooming, whelping, stud service, competing in all canine and equestrian events including shows, agility, carriage driving, Schutzhund and rescue. Not a day went by that she wasn’t involved in rescuing an animal or sometimes a houseplant that someone had put on the sidewalk. His empty-nest solution in his 60s was, ironically, birds. An entire room in the house was occupied by finches. For the past 20 years she has driven her mini horse in the Norco Parade.
She had other passions – she was a skilled pianist, guitarist and strong soprano. She filled her house with classical music. She worked as a Thumb Taxi driver, occasionally driving a nake streaker in the 70s, a newspaper delivery boy, a dog groomer and a medical transcriptionist. She was also an early adopter of breastfeeding, organic food delivery, and yoga. When her husband died in 1996, she moved to Norco and amassed a menagerie including dogs, cats, chickens, BLM burros, donkeys, horses, geese, ducks, goats, llamas and a beef.
Mary Lou refused to let age slow her down. At 70 and recently widowed, she gave herself the birthday present of doing something she had always wanted to do. She jumped on a mule and drove it to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. When she was 88, she hopped on a plane and made her first trip to Europe to sing in Corona’s Circle City Chorale’s Eastern European performance tour, singing in Prague, Budapest and Vienna. When she was 91, she looked up the hill behind her house to a giant boulder in the distance painted like a Jack-o-Lantern, known as Pumpkin Rock. She wondered aloud, “I would like to hike there one day.” And the next day she did just that. This nonagenarian hiked 1.7 miles up a mountain, with grandchildren in tow carrying her chair to rest.
Mary Lou loved to sit on the porch watching the world go by, critiquing riders, describing cars, and waiting for the mail. Her more recent hobbies were correcting the behavior of her animals and searching for her purse.
Mary Lou was predeceased by her husband, rocket scientist Billy Burgett Williams (1929-1996), her athletic sister, Charlotte Ann Stearns Whitehead (1923-2005) and generous brother, John Rufus Stearns (1931- 2010). Mary Lou leaves behind four children, Laurie (Chip) Smith, Sandra (Gary) Phenning, Russell (Robbin) Williams, Susie (Adam) Hoffman, three nieces, three nephews, seven grandchildren, two great-grandchildren and Josie the dog.
Services will be held at noon on February 19, 2022 at the American Legion in Norco.
In lieu of flowers, donations are gratefully accepted to organizations Mary Lou has supported: Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, or the Humane Society.
Published by Windsor & Healdsburg Mortuary/Crematory on January 27, 2022.