Thursday, March 18, 2004

Francis Williams served the poor

Franciscan Brother was 80

By Rebecca Goodman
The Cincinnati Enquirer

O'BRYONVILLE - Franciscan Brother Francis Williams received the Martin Luther King Jr. Keep the Dream Alive Award from the Archdiocese of Detroit in 1992 for his service to the poor.

Brother Williams also co-founded and ran an award-winning poverty program at Duns Scotus College in Southfield, Mich.

"He was a great man of faith and an inspiration that's incomparable," said Brother David Crank, Brother Williams' superior and caretaker.

Brother Williams, a former cook at St. Francis Friary in Over-the-Rhine and at St. Anthony Brothers School (now St. Anthony Shrine) in Mount Airy, died of heart failure Sunday at Christ Hospital with Brother Crank at his side. A resident of St. Margaret Hall in O'Bryonville, he was 80.

Brother Williams was born in Kansas City, Mo., in 1924. He was the son of one of the city's few African-American police officers. When his father, James J. Williams, retired from the department, he opened a restaurant and Brother Williams studied at a culinary school in his hometown.

He put that training to use serving the needy after taking his vows as a Franciscan in 1953. He supervised the kitchens at several friaries and colleges with humility, optimism and unshakable faith.

"He never wavered," Brother Crank said. "He had a lot of infirmities that he had to embrace for perhaps the last 15-20 years. He was diabetic and lost both his legs, and through that his faith was so strong he was able to get up every day and see it as another blessing."

Survivors include nieces and nephews.

Visitation is 5-7 p.m. today at St. Clement Church, 4536 Vine St. in St. Bernard. Mass of Christian burial follows. Burial is 11 a.m. Friday at St. Mary Cemetery in St. Bernard.

Memorials: St. Michael's Poverty Program, St. Michael Catholic Church, 25225 Code Road, Southfield, MI 48034.

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