Siren of service: late rescue squad chief leaves paramedic legacy

Out of all the words used to describe Gene Williams, the one used most often was "friend."

Robert Bowers, the acting director, Clay Fulmer, the acting assistant director, Candi Brown and Tommy Trantham, Williston Rescue Squad board members joined together May 17, to remember one of their own.

Gene Williams, the director of the Williston Rescue Squad for eight years and member for more than 26 years, died May 10.

Williams was a multitude of things to many people within the rescue squad but all considered Williams a friend. He also was loyal, honest, dedicated, a mentor and a compassionate individual.

"At the end of the day, when you look in the mirror and see half the qualities Gene had, you have done really well," Trantham said. "He's the kinda guy I want to grow up to be."

"He was one of a kind," Bowers said.

"Gene didn't know anything other than this squad," Bowers said of Williams's dedication.

The Williston Rescue Squad was not just a job for Williams, said Brown, "It was more than just work. This was his home. This is a family."

Like family is how Williams treated those with whom he worked.

"He taught life lessons," Brown said of Williams working with and teaching the newer members of the squad.

"He instilled for them to take pride in their job. To take pride in what the employer provided," Brown said. "He held the bar way up high."

That caring spirit went beyond employees to include their children, other family members and especially patients.

"He wanted the best possible outcome for the patients. For that he knew we needed the best employees and equipment," Fulmer said.

Trantham said he was a mentor to many, including his own son.

"When my son comes home, I can see Gene in him," Trantham said. "Gene was the least selfish person I have ever worked with. I consider it an honor to have ever known him. He had a real big bark and no teeth. He was full of heart."

Everything was not always serious with Williams around.

For over 20 years, Bowers and Williams worked together.

"We had a lot of laughs around here," Bowers said.

The stories the two shared were many of those years. Williams working as the director and Bowers as the assistant director, there were times when they did not agree with each other, however, Bowers said there was only one time they shared cross words.

"We never showed our differences to anyone," Bowers said.

An agreement was always reached by the two, he said.

If Williams heard of a child that would not have presents for Christmas, he would pull money from his own pocket to make sure that child had something for the holidays, Brown said.

That giving spirit continued to patients who needed wheelchairs and ramps built, Fulmer said.

Bowers and Fulmer said Williams had a vision for Williston Rescue Squad.

"His vision was to see a service that was the best and the most caring," Fulmer said.

"His vision will continue," Trantham said.

"We will continue to grow the service just as Gene would have wanted," Bowers said. "It takes everyone wanting to go the same direction. Nothing is going to change. We will take it one day at a time."

"You can't really put into words what we have lost," Brown said. "The loss that each person feels, especially those who worked with him day to day. We had an angel among us."

"He became the cornerstone, now he is the foundation," Fulmer said.