Home » Teacher, skier, mentor, nudge, board member and poet

Teacher, skier, mentor, nudge, board member and poet

SALISBURY — Carl H. Williams, a prominent resident of Salisbury known for his abundant humor and public spirit, died Friday, Jan. 13, at Geer in North Canaan. He was 91.Born Dec. 19, 1920, in Ware, Mass., Williams graduated from The Lenox School in Lenox, Mass., in 1939 and earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from Trinity College in 1943.He then enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served until 1946. He remained in the Naval reserve until 1968.Williams, his wife Elizabeth (known as Ibba) and their three sons arrived in Salisbury in 1963, when Williams took the job as head of the math department at Salisbury School.An avid skier and all-around outdoorsman, Williams restarted the school’s skiing program and became head coach, just one of the many hats he wore at the school. He continued coaching until last year.Williams was also admissions director, college placement director and assistant librarian.Williams was involved with the Salisbury Winter Sports Association, the Democratic Town Committee, St. John’s Church and the Salisbury Forum.He was an instructor of a “55 and Over” driving course and a founding trustee of the Salisbury Housing Trust.In 1947, after Williams finished a three-year hitch on a destroyer escort in the U.S. Navy, he and Rod Beebe (Ibba’s brother) a teacher at The Gunnery in Washington, Conn., bought Camp Kapitachouane in central Quebec province and operated it until 1987. The camp’s mission was teaching groups of up to nine boys how to be outdoorsmen.Salisbury First Selectman Curtis Rand went on a couple of those trips.“His canoe trips taught generations of boys the challenges of self-confidence, as well as all manner of boy things, like how to sharpen an ax so you could shave with it (even though no one could shave yet), how to portage in mud, run rapids, patch clothes, get along and to breathe in the deep northern wilderness — and work from that point on to keep it intact,” he said.A Camp Kapitachouane brochure read, “small in size and run informally,” and, “teaches boys the fundamentals of camping and canoeing.”The camp is still there; the land is leased but “we still own the buildings,” Williams said in 2010.“Lawyers who aren’t born yet are trying to figure out” the legalities of the situation, and while Williams stopped making the trip some years ago, his sons and their families still use it.“Do I miss it?” he asked rhetorically. “You bet I do.”Salisbury School Headmaster Chisholm Chandler wrote: “The legend of Carl Williams is known throughout New England, especially on the ski slopes of Catamount, Butternut and other mountains where independent school students gather to race. Thankfully, his legacy will live on in our hearts and also in the many events named in his honor, including the Berkshire Ski League’s Championship Slalom Race. Carl often remarked that he always felt happiest when he was on the ski slopes teaching younger racers to ski fast or in his canoe in the summer, exploring new waters with students all over the Canadian province of Quebec. “As a faculty member at Salisbury, Carl was the consummate schoolman. He worked hard to help boys become men of courage, dedication and integrity. Never was there a man more dedicated to students, their growth and their passions for the outdoors, especially ski racing. We are so proud of him and the glorious life he lived for 91-plus years. We are heartbroken at his passing, as he was a very, very special man and friend.”State Sen. Andrew Roraback (R-30) met Williams when the latter coached the Hotchkiss ski team in the mid-1970s.“He seemed ageless when I met him in 1975, to the last time I saw him in 2011,” he said. “He had incredible devotion to Salisbury. You can’t imagine the town without Carl Williams being on the scene.”Williams was elected to the Salisbury Board of Finance in 1983, and became chairman in 1987.“Carl Williams was our financial historian,” said Bill Willis, who succeeded Williams as chairman in 2006. “He had a wealth of financial knowledge about the town, and he was a mentor to many of us on the board. I will miss his advice and counsel.“For us, a legend has passed away.”Rand said of Williams’ service on the finance board, “He then turned his attention to helping our town keep its finances on very solid footings. A true conservative, he might recycle old shoelaces, but he also never let us skimp on the important budget items that made our town strong, and his constant faith and trust in young people are his enduring life lessons.”Don Mayland, also from the Board of Finance, said, “To many of us in town he was a folk hero — bigger than life. I mean, how can you top a man who skis until he’s 90, and was sharp as a tack? He’s irreplaceable.”State Rep. Roberta Willis (D-64) said, “What a loss to this town. Carl is irreplaceable. His dedication and leadership left Salisbury on sound fiscal ground. “As an elected official and candidate, Carl only made two promises. First, he promised to govern with a sense of humor. Second, he promised to limit his terms of office to two more after his 90th birthday. Unfortunately, for all of us, he was unable to keep the latter one.”Williams wasn’t shy about expressing his opinions, but he leavened his remarks with humor. Williams’ poetry, written under the pseudonym “Corporal Doggerel,” appeared regularly in The Lakeville Journal. The gently satirical poems, often accompanied by simple illustrations by Williams, were popular.Roberta Willis: “Carl’s pencil was always sharp. ‘Corporal Doggerel’ enriched our lives and our community with his sage advice and quick wit for every occasion.”Roraback said over his years in the state legislature he had received numerous letters on various topics from Williams — on Camp Kapitachouane stationery.“He was opinionated, but always thoughtful and respectful. He had this brusque way about him that masked one of the biggest hearts I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing,” said Roraback. “He was a good and decent soul.”Diane Mayland, a retired Salisbury Central School teacher, said, “Some men have smiley eyes. That was Carl Williams. He had a sparkle. He was such a positive person. And up until two years ago he was always a reader [at Read Aloud Day] at the school.”And Dave Heck, president of the Salisbury Association, noted that Williams was a trustee of the Salisbury Association for many years.“The meetings are not the same without him, Heck said. “He always approached things with great common sense and his wonderful sense of humor. He’d drop into the Academy Building almost every day, always with an interesting or funny story.”After an exhibit in April 2010 of Williams’ collection of canoe art at the Salisbury School, he invited a reporter to visit his home to see the full collection.The Williams home was chock full of canoe-related items — prints, photographs, models, catalogs and half a canoe converted into a bookshelf.Every wall in every room was pretty well covered — if not with canoe art, with mounted trout, caught in the wilds of Canada on one of the Camp Kapitachouane trips. His enthusiasm for the outdoors was apparent and contagious. Williams showed his visitor a red canoe model he commissioned in Jamaica — “In 1984, after a trip to the Arctic,” he added casually.And he described the process of getting four fat trout back from the northern wilderness for the taxidermist.The fish were completely gutted and scooped out on one side; “Then they went into a saltwater solution — thick enough to support a potato — for three days.“Then they were packed in wet salt.”And, two months later, they were ready for the taxidermist.As an example of Williams sense of humor, picture the man, wearing a sweatshirt with the legend “The Dogfather,” typing this letter to the editor, published in The Lakeville Journal Feb. 11, 2010:I would like to announce at this time that I am a candidate for any or all of the following statewide offices: Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, or any of the five Connecticut congressional representatives.Everybody else is doing it, so why shouldn’t I?And yes, I do have a platform:1. How do you keep business in Connecticut? We refuse to allow them to leave. The state will buy any items they cannot sell.2. How do we keep young people in Connecticut? See #1 above. When they threaten to leave we will send them to bed without any supper or TV.3. We will put toll booths on all roads entering Connecticut. Cars with New York Yankee stickers, T-shirts, etc. will have to pay a $500 entrance fee. Cars with Red Sox paraphernalia will pay $5. All other cars are free.4. How do we take care of the budget deficit? Easy! We will print all the money we need on a modern multi-color office copy machine, and call the result “state bond commission notes.”5. Term limits? You betcha, Sarah! When I am elected I will be a few weeks short of 90 years old, and I promise not to seek more than a second term.6. If, by chance, any of my competitors should win, they have to promise to govern with a sense of humor so that they will not be impossible to live with.Williams was nothing if not thorough. Another letter appeared in the Feb. 25 issue, thanking The Journal for running his announcement and noting that he forgot to mention his candidacy for the U.S. Senate.“And I should have included the health-care plank of my platform, which is as follows: Take two aspirin, use a Band-Aid if absolutely necessary, and call me when you are cured.”

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