Mary Ruth Williams (nee Silas), was born in Albany, Georgia on October 31, 1933 to Daisy (Thomas) Jackson and John Silas. Mary was reared by her maternal grandmother, Nellie Bush Thomas until her death in 1940. In 1947 Mary moved to White Plains, NY and was reared by her paternal grandmother, Irene (Kendricks) Silas. Mary graduated from White Plains High School in 1951. After receiving an academic scholarship, Mary attended and graduated from New York’s Metropolitan School of Nursing in 1953. After graduation, Mary worked various “private duty” nursing assignments for some prominent families and was one of the first African Americans to work as a nurse at Lawrence Hospital in Bronxville, New York. Mary worked at Lawrence Hospital for approximately 25 years. Mary also worked as a nurse at the college of New Rochelle in the 1970’s.
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In 1954, Mary married Richard D. Williams of New Rochelle NY, who she first met at a dance sponsored by the Urban League while in High School. Two children were born to their 57-year union, Ramona L. Williams and Richard D. Williams, Jr. The family resided in Tuckahoe, NY before making their home in Elmsford, NY in 1962. Mary, with encouragement from former NAACP President Mamie Haynes, became a known and sought-after grass roots organizer, community crusader and vocal advocate for the downtrodden, impoverished and underdogs once she moved to Elmsford in the Town of Greenburgh NY. Mary involved herself in and lent her talents and tenaciousness to various organizations and numerous ad hoc causes, addressing and combating unjust policies in the distribution of authority, power and financial resources (governmental and private). Mary was particularly sensitive to circumstances that, if not challenged, would produce unfair results for the populations that needed the most help. In this regard and for example, Mary served as a co-founder and longtime Board Member of the Westchester Community Opportunity Program (WestCop), a member of the Greenburgh Youth Service Organization (YSO), Operation Youth Start and later as a co-founder of the Greenburgh Youth Center; a co-founder of the Union Child Day Care Center (now Lois Bronz Children’s Center); held various offices in the White Plains/Greenburgh chapter of the NAACP, including branch President; Officer in the Elmsford PTA; Officer in the Elmsford Civic League and served the community as a frequent speaker at Greenburgh Town Hall Meetings just to name a few. For many years before “social media,” during both national and local election days, Mary would get a town/village permit, be driven up and down the streets and urge her Elmsford neighbors to vote over a loud speaker.
In 1973 Mary attended travel school, earned her industry credentials and opened “Bermuda Home Tourist Travel Agency,” which she operated until her health limited her and the internet changed the fundamental nature of both the leisure and corporate travel business. Mary was ever mindful of how difficult it was for a black female owned business to succeed, yet she persevered and operated her business for over forty years. In addition to helping her customers, the most satisfying benefit Mary received was the ability to travel all over the world and make numerous friends literally all over the world. Mary particularly enjoyed working on travel exchanges such as when a group of Elmsford/Greenburgh students traveled to Bermuda to perform a black history presentation and the Bermudian students then came to Westchester to reciprocate; or when she organized an exchange between her home Church and an Anglican Church in South Africa. As a business owner, Mary helped numerous individuals who had no financial means, travel to family crises, prompting debates with her husband whether she was operating a business or a social service travel agency. Mary also enjoyed being a member of the Carnival Club of Westchester and was a past President of the Elmsford Chamber of Commerce.
As a child, Mary was baptized in Albany, Georgia at Arcadia Baptist Church. In 1963 Mary joined what is now, St. Francis and St. Martha’s Episcopal Church in White Plains where she has held continuous membership for 55 years. Mary loved God and called on the name of Jesus often.
Mary also loved her Church, served in numerous capacities, involved the congregation in community activities, and has served God through the Church as an active member.
Mary has received many acknowledgements, citations and awards too numerous to mention here, however, it is notable that she was honored to be inaugurated into the first group of women inducted into the Spirit of Women Archives at Westchester Community College by the American Women of African Heritage (AWAH) in 2015.
Mary was preceded in death by her husband of 57 years Richard D. Williams (2012); her mother Daisy (Thomas) Jackson, her father John Silas, her sisters Jacqueline Jordan, Norma Baylis, Nellie Claressa Walker and a brother Richard Jackson and multiple special aunts she cherished, that provided care to her during her early childhood following the death of her maternal grandmother.
Mary is survived by her daughter, Ramona Williams; her son, Richard D. Williams Jr.; her daughter-in-law, Paula Jeter-Williams; two granddaughters, Patrice M. Williams and Kyanne A. Williams; six great grandchildren, Ayanna and Aniya Preudhomme, Sky and Jordyn Harper, Elyjah Williams-Morris and Diyari Kemar Sanford; one sister in law, Shirley Butts; and a host of devoted nieces, nephews, cousins, Godchildren. The family recognizes and acknowledges, that in addition to her blood relatives, Mary touched the lives of and enjoyed meaningful relationships and shared experiences with those who considered her a mother, aunt, sister and friend, locally and globally.
The Entire Staff of Lee's Funeral Home, LLC respects that the Williams family entrusted the care of their loved one to us, and that they value the level of service & attention our funeral home provides. We are honored, in turn, to provide comfort, assistance and service to the Williams family during their time of bereavement.
In LIEU of flowers, the family appreciates/kindly requests contributions be made in her name/memory/honor to: Westchester Community Opportunity Program, Inc., 2 Westchester Plaza, Elmsford, NY 10523 (may be done through donation tab here on website from Menu above or link below, or on your own) and/or on your own to: White Plains/Greenburgh NAACP, P.O. Box 8286, White Plains, NY 10602, or at www.NAACP.org or www. wpgbnaacporg.wordpress.com , instead of flowers.