Lee Williamson, beloved friend —
Lee looked a lot like Santa Claus, a role he played a number of times. He also looked like a picture that hung in the hallway of my childhood home, an artist's idea of some Old Testament Prophet. I missed seeing him play Santa, but my life has surely been influenced by Lee's prophetic gifts.
I saw his strong leadership in the Methodist Federation for Social Action, the Conference Board of Church and Society, at Annual Conference Session, in the pulpit. I frequently sought his insights to help understand Methodist things; I especially miss him for that. He gave of himself to many interfaith and community organizations striving for justice and human rights. At this year's UMC Annual Conference for Northern California/Nevada, he was presented with a special award, and a very long list was read of justice groups, in the church, and in the community, with whom Lee had worked. He richly deserved that honor. I cried, with joy.
In the broad grouping we call the peace movement, he encouraged us and kept us on track. For instance, in pursuing some just cause, we may become a tad self-righteous, and fail to see the whole picture. One example: in concern for policies at Walmart, Lee pointed out that we must keep in mind that's the only place some can afford to shop. He could also see a moment of humor, often even in difficult situations, which helped us keep balanced and keep going.
He loved Hendy Woods State Park, and picking huckleberries there. He must have used some of those in his scrumptious peach/rhubarb/berry pie, for baking was another delight - I believe to him, and certainly to those of us lucky enough to eat the pies and bread and cakes. We enjoyed "roastin' ears" fresh from his small backyard garden - sacrificial sharing, to my way of thinking! John Chamberlin's description of Lee "liking to joke around" is just right! He was a great story teller, and I think he liked to sing, too.
We both had rural midwest roots - Kansas and Oklahoma - and we shared thoughts and books about that.
I admired him for his integrity, strength and courage, for his compassion, humor, wisdom, his dedicated work for justice, and for his devotion to family and to the teachings of Jesus - there was nothing "holier-than-thou" about Lee. He was grounded, endearing, enduring, earthy, and eloquent.
I am immensely grateful for Lee's presence in my life.