Jason Williams lived his life asking the question, “What can we do to help?”
By day, the 7th and 8th grade English teacher at Washington Middle School encouraged his students to dig deeper, ask questions and follow their interests. He inspired them to think big while also thinking of others.
“Jason’s work with kids was all-consuming,” said longtime friend and fellow teacher, Jeff Kresge. “He was constantly trying to find new ways to engage with his students.”
One year, that included bringing his own parents to open house to connect with his students and make them smile.
“The students were asking us what type of student Jason was and if he ever broke the rules,” shared his mother, Diane.
While his day-job was teaching, his need to create and perform was truly a calling.
Following His Passion
According to his family, his introduction to the stage was at St. Peter & Paul Elementary School at the direction of Mark Alpaugh. He found his way onto the stage at Jamestown Community College as a member of The Uncommoners. He also created Scribblings, a student led creative writing magazine while attending SUNY Fredonia.
“His mind was just amazing,” said his mother, Diane.
After receiving his degree at Fredonia, Williams became involved with the JCC Alumni Council’s mystery dinner theatre fundraisers. He wrote and performed in many of the shows, making lots of friends along the way. Williams founded Lights of Broadway, a mash-up of comedy skits, well-known plays and musical renditions that raised money for charity.
“Preparing for our shows was physically and mentally taxing,” said Kresge. “I always planned to opt out of the next one Jason was planning, but I could never say no. I didn’t want to let him down because of all the things he did for others.”
Over the years, Lights of Broadway raised for the local MS Society Chapter and Toys for Tots, causes personal to Williams and his wife Holly.
“Jason’s love of people and community knew no bounds,” Kresge said. “The word ‘no’ was not in Jason’s vocabulary, especially when it came to helping someone.”
A Fitting Tribute
Williams passed away, suddenly, in June 2019 at 40 years old. In the days and weeks that followed, countless stories emerged as to the kind of teacher, friend, and entertainer he was. His funeral was attended by hundreds, many dressed in costumes and wearing Converse sneakers, a Williams favorite.
But perhaps of all the roles Williams held throughout his life, there were two that consistently received top billing in his mind – husband and father. No matter what Williams was doing, Holly and his sons, Drew and Nathan were always his first priority.
“Holly and the boys meant everything to Jason,” added Diane and Carl.
To honor Williams’ legacy, his family created the Jason M. Williams Fund for Performing Arts to support musical theater programs at Jamestown Public Schools.
“Jason became colleagues with his former teacher, Mark Alpaugh, and they produced the musicals together at Washington Middle School,” said his father, Carl. “He got the whole family involved with building sets and making the costumes. We love the idea of remembering Jason by supporting something so important to him.”