HELENA – Jeffrey Wayne Williams, 56, passed away peacefully on Tuesday, May 25, 2010, after a long, valiant battle with cancer.
From his childhood in Flint, Mich., Jeff reveled in outdoor pursuits that largely shaped the rest of his life. Jeff served as a counselor at Camp Chicagami in Presque Isle, Mich., where he not only honed his outdoor skills, but also delighted in entertaining campers even if it meant walking with bare feet on glowing hot coals. Jeff graduated from Michigan State University with a B.S. degree in topical geography. Throughout his life, Jeff pursued his passion for bird hunting, fly-fishing, birdwatching, skating, skiing, and cycling. Jeff’s love of the outdoors translated to a lifelong effort to protect the waters, mountains, fish, and wildlife for all of us to enjoy.
But there was one pursuit that would keep him indoors, his voracious appetite for the written word. And it was this passion upon which he based his professional career, working up through the ranks to become one of the top sales managers in the country for Simon & Schuster’s Pocket Books division.
In 1995, Jeff moved to Helena, where he could unite his pursuit of the sportsman’s life and publishing acumen, working for Falcon Press, Greycliff Publishing and Riverbend Publishing.
In Montana, Jeff found a soulmate and a new life partner, Martha Colhoun. Married in 1997, Jeff and Martha built a life of adventure and love for each other and their beautiful children, Katharine, 10, and Ian, 7.
Jeff’s legacy will endure through his two children and the countless hours he volunteered for conservation and arts organizations. Jeff served on the boards of the Prickly Pear Land Trust and the Drumlummon Institute in Helena. He also volunteered for Trout Unlimited, monitoring stream flow in the Blackfoot Valley. Looking for ways to help others living with cancer, Jeff raised money for and awareness of the Lance Armstrong Foundation. Some of Jeff’s fondest memories were those he spent riding bikes with his family, friends, and Lance Armstrong.
Jeff savored the friendships and camaraderie that he built from his adventures. He was uniquely without judgment of others in his constant quest for information and understanding of the world around him. Jeff loved to share ideas, stories, and jokes with friends and colleagues, never failing to elicit a smile and cheerful wink. Indeed his sense of humor was contagious and none of his friends or family escaped being christened with one of Jeff’s quirky nicknames. And they responded in kind with a few monikers for him, such as Weasel, Johnny Thunder, the Divine Wind, El Jefe, and Papa.
It was Jeff’s tenacity and strength of character that defined the last eight years of his life in his struggle to beat brain cancer. He simply refused to let go without a fight. After enduring radiation therapy, chemotherapy, three brain surgeries and one clinical trial, he defied all the odds to become one of the longest living survivors of glioblastoma multiforme.
Jeff was preceded in death by his first wife, Sarah Gahagan; and his father, Jack Williams.
Jeff is survived by his beloved wife, Martha and his two beloved children, Katharine Murray and Ian Macgill; mother Charlotte; and sisters Cynthia and Laura. A plethora of nieces, nephews, friends, and relations will greatly miss Jeff’s wit, humor, and wry smile.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be sent in Jeff’s memory to the Montana Outdoor Discovery Center, care of FWP Foundation, P.O. Box 200701, Helena, MT 59620-0701; Trout Unlimited, Montana Water Project, 321 East Main, Ste 411, Bozeman, MT 59715; or Prickly Pear Land Trust, P.O. Box 892, Helena, MT 59624.
A celebration of Jeff’s life will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday, June 3, at St. Paul United Methodist Church, 512 Logan St., Helena, MT 59601.