Victoria humanitarian dies at 76

Jennifer Lee Preyss By Jennifer Lee Preyss

Jan. 21, 2011 at 3:05 p.m.
Updated Jan. 20, 2011 at 7:21 p.m.

Sandra Shinn Williams, beloved Victoria community volunteer, died peacefully at 6 p.m. Wednesday from complications of Alzheimer's disease. She was 76 years old. As one of the "Grand Dames" of Victoria, as friend and colleague Mary Cox referred to her, Williams was revered in social circles for her tireless community service efforts spanning more than four decades.

"She was just an exceptional woman in every sense of the word, one of the few real grand dames of Victoria," Cox, who served with Williams on the Victoria County Courthouse Restoration Steering Committee, as well as the O'Connor-Proctor Restoration Project, said. "She had a gracious, unassuming air about her and cared so deeply about Victoria. We're going to miss her so much."

Among her many contributions to the city, Williams was elemental in the establishment of The Children's Discovery Museum in downtown Victoria, and was a founding member of the Hospice of South Texas.

Williams was also an instrumental figure with St. Joseph's High School, and served for many years as executive director of the Victoria Adult Literacy Council.

"She did so much with the Literacy Council. She wanted to make the world a better place through literacy," Stacey Weaver, director of the Victoria College Adult Education Program, said. "In my mind, she was the quintessential Texas lady. She had the ability to make everyone around her feel comfortable."

Friends who knew her well, remembered her as a woman of great wit, infectious charm and keen intelligence. But they also remembered her as a genuinely kind woman and true friend.

"She was a real common-sense person and very smart, it was always such a pleasant friendship," longtime friend L'Nell Starkey said. "She was a good friend. The best."

Another of Williams' longtime friends, Mary Hicks, said the community will suffer a profound loss from Williams' passing.

"She was, of course, a great volunteer for the community. She had a talent as a fundraiser. Sandra wasn't afraid of work," Hicks, who also served on many community projects with Williams, said. "She had a lot of compassion for people in need. She had a very interesting and productive life, and the town benefited from her talents and interests. We will greatly miss her."

Williams' middle daughter Amy Connett said at home, her mother was similarly exceptional.

"Not to sound trite, but she was an awesome mother. She was a great role-model, selfless and she was always there for everything. I could tell her anything," Connett said. "I was going through some her plaques recently and thought, 'Wow, I have a hard act to follow.'"

Connett joined her older sister, Katie Behrends and younger brother, Rob Williams at their mother's bedside Wednesday evening when Williams took her final breath.

"We got the call that the end was imminent. So, we left to be with her and were able to be there when she passed, which was nice," Connett said.

Though in a coma-like state, Connett said she believes her mother could hear her children comforting her at her deathbed.

"They told us to keep talking to her, that she could hear us, and just before she died, a tear rolled down her face," Connett said. "I think she knew we were there."



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