Rolland Eugene “Gene” Williams, 87, died peacefully at his home in Riley, Kansas on January 18, 2016.
He was born July 12, 1928 to Rolland and Louise (Staten) Williams at Riley. Gene grew up on one of the Pottorf farms south of Riley. He attended St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Ogden, where he took his catechism and was a young altar boy. Gene attended the Seven Mile and the Magic country schools near Riley through the seventh grade, then Riley Grade School for the eighth grade. He graduated from Riley Rural High School in 1946 after which he began work in the construction industry for the O.D. Milligan Company. He was an O.D. Milligan superintendent on the building of the K-State Student Union in 1954 and also worked on the Eisenhower Hall addition, Smurthwaite House in 1960, the Engineering addition, LaFene Student Health Center, St. Isidore Catholic Student Center, Vista Drive-In, and Blue Hills Shopping Center.
In the mid-1960s he started Williams Construction, doing both commercial and residential work, including the First Christian Church addition and the Riley State Bank remodel in 1974, until he retired the company in December 2000. Not ready to slow down quite yet, he joined his long-time friends, the Jones family, at Manko Window Systems of Manhattan where he remained until early 2013 when he was 84.
Gene loved his work and being around people. He was a man of quiet faith who brought laughs and happiness to all who knew him, and was always ready to help anyone without expecting anything in return. He loved the outdoors, whether to hunt, fish, or spend time with his family at the lake boating and especially water-skiing. He also enjoyed time spent in his expansive garden. In his younger years, he was drawn to any kind of competitive challenge, and later became the Kansas Outboard Racing Association World Champion in the hydroplane and runabout boating divisions in 1954 and 1955. He also took home ribbons in tractor pulling with his Purple Power tractor.
Serving his community was very important to Gene. He was on the Riley City Council in the 1950s and from 1995 through 2001. He became a volunteer fireman in the late 1950s when the city still ran the 1928 fire truck, continuing until the mid-1990s. In 1969 he was appointed as Warrant Officer in the Civil Air Patrol and by 1977 was listed as a 2nd Lieutenant. He was a member of Riley County 4-H in the mid-1930s, when “Aunt Lucy” Pottorf was his 4-H leader.
He is survived by his wife of 39 years, Carol, of the home. Also surviving him are his children of his first marriage, Diane Allison (David) of Riley, Marjorie Hofmann (John) of Leonardville, Shelly Morgan (Richard) of Manhattan; as well as Jenneen LeMay (Cory) and Glenn Brandt of Riley, from his marriage to Carol; his sister, Gloria Gretchen Trumpp of Garnett; his grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces, and nephews; and many special long-time friends.
He was preceded in death by his parents, brothers Harlan and Douglas, sisters Helen and Marilyn, and sons Mark Allan and Michael Lane.
Funeral services will be held at 10:30 A.M. Thursday, January 21, 2016 at the Anderes-Pfeifley Funeral Home in Riley, with Pastor Kevin Larson officiating. Respect calls may be made anytime Wednesday. The family will receive friends from 6 to 8:00 P.M. Wednesday. Burial will be in the Riley Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial contributions in Gene’s name be directed to HomeCare and Hospice of Manhattan, Kansas. Contributions may be left in care of the Anderes-Pfeifley Funeral Home.