Thomasina WilliamsSeptember 13, 2017
Thomasina Williams, a retired teacher and Staten Island Advance Woman of Achievement, who devoted her life to providing clothing and comfort to those in need, died Wednesday in Clove Lakes Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center. She was 83 years old.
Until recently, Mrs. Williams had been collecting used clothing for those in need. She washed and dried items donated to her church, or things left on the front porch of her Meiers Corners home by those who had heard of her work. She sorted everything according to size and gender, and distributed them to those in need on Staten Island and overseas.
Her mission began at the Hungerford School, Clifton, where she taught for 25 years until her retirement in 1995.
At the time the school had a boutique shop, where people could bring gently-used clothes to donate, so students could have warm sweaters, coats, hats for the winter.
A surplus of items and a lack of storage space was the spark for an idea. Mrs. Williams knew of people in the community and in her church, Fellowship Baptist Church in Mariners Harbor, who could use the items. She began to collect, sort and distribute many of the items herself, and through the church.
In time she also began to distribute donated food and furniture as well.
Among Mrs. Williams' accomplishments was her active role in co-founding and serving as first president of the Rev. Arthur D. Phillips Scholarship/Humanitarian Awards Committee, named for the activist and former pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church, who died in 1988.
Her fund-raising efforts resulted in dozens of monetary scholarships awarded to high school seniors entering college.
In 2014, Mrs. Williams received the Martin Luther King Legacy Award for her longtime service to Fellowship Baptist Church.
Mrs. Williams' son, Jay, said his mother was humble about her charity work.
"The most important thing, she would tell us, was to always treat people as you would want to be treated," he said
Mrs. Williams was born Thomasina Huntley in Raleigh, N.C., the sixth of eight siblings.
After graduating from Shaw University, Raleigh, in 1957 with a bachelor's degree in elementary education and a minor in art, she moved to Queens, where her family had already re-located, and worked as an assistant teacher in the Queensborough Day Care Center.
After settling on Staten Island in 1963, she earned a master's degree in special education at the College of Staten Island, with enough equivalency credits earned at New York University, Columbia Teachers College and Wagner College, to earn a second master's degree in special education.
Before joining the staff at the Hungerford School, Mrs. Williams worked at the former Willowbrook State School and taught special education students at PS 3, Pleasant Plains.
Known as "Tee" to family and friends, Mrs. Williams got her nickname when she began dating her husband-to-be, Charles, a retired Curtis High School boys physical education teacher. They met while both were teachers at the Willowbrook State School; they married in 1963.
In addition to her charity and church work, Mrs, Williams was a life member and former vice president of the National Council of Negro Women, and the Staten Island Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). She also volunteered with the Girl Scouts, supporting fund-raising efforts and assisting when needed.
She was also a co-founder of the Staten Island Chapter of the Purple Hat Society.
For her volunteer work and committment to the community, Mrs. Williams was named an Advance Woman of Achievement in 2000. She continued to enjoy the annual luncheon, never missing an opportunity to salute others in the community.
In addition to Charles, her husband of 54 years, Mrs. Williams is survived by two sons, Jay and Ray, a daughter, Donna, and four grandchildren.
Another daughter, Gloria, died in 1992.
By Diane C. Lore of the Staten Island Advance