Avery Lee Williams, long-time member and “Chief Recruiter’ of the Easton Lions Club, passed away in the early morning hours of September 23, 2021. Lee joined the Easton Lions Club in 1979, and was a member for 42 years. In 1991 he was honored with the Melvin Jones Fellowship by club members.
In 2019 he was awarded the Membership Global Key & Medallion by Lions Clubs International in recognition of recruiting and sponsoring 250 members. Including those individuals who stayed in the Club for less than a year Lee introduced over 500 members to the organization. Since receiving that recognition Lee continued to recruit and sponsor new members. He was working to ‘close the deal’ on a new member just days before his death.
Lee learned ‘community development’ as a member of the Jaycees, which he joined in 1960. He credited that group with providing ‘personal leadership training’ that he tried to extend to the Lions. Virtually every program that the Easton Lions Club has created and operated over the last forty years was shaped by Lee’s leadership.
Lee was integral to many legacy projects around town, some of which bear his name, many which don’t, but all were advanced by the strength of his vision and drive. One of his more successful creations, the Easton Lions Club’s Thrift store, has generated hundreds of thousands of dollars that have been redirected back into the community through charitable donations to local groups, and the Massachusetts Lions Eye Research Foundation – MLERF.
Avery Lee Williams will hold a place of honor in the history of the Lions Club, both in Easton, and beyond.
Melvin Jones Fellowship Chair
Nine words spoken by 1.4 million women and men over a dozen times a year all around this globe in 48,000 Lions Clubs. It is uttered in scores of languages by people committed to doing good. By people committed to leaving this place better than they found it. By people who will leave an imprint on their communities. Not a single one of those people expressing our core belief does so with more conviction than Avery Lee Williams did. Lee lived that motto.
The Lions motto speaks to the power of a community. Lee knew that we are so much stronger in numbers than we ever could be as individuals. He knew that to feed a community you had to plant seeds, nurture them, help them flourish and then harvest their bounty. And, you had to reinvest part of that harvest back into the soil – the community. His harvest was the growing number of people channeling their efforts into making our community more inviting, stronger – a wonderful place to live and raise a family.
He spread the seeds around – not just in Easton, but seemingly everywhere he went. In meeting a stranger (and Lee only knew a stranger for a few minutes, after which they became a friend) he would often ask “has anyone asked you to join the Lions?”. And the hook was set, the seed sewn. He’d water that seed – using his index card system to circle back around to them in six months, a year, or more. Whatever the “prospect” gave as a reminder interval. The only “no” observed was that rare instance when the prospect asked not to be contacted again, but this was only a temporary determent for Lee.
It helps to know that Lee had a modus operandi. You see, he felt an obligation to leave this place better than he found it, and to make the most of what he’d been given. Lee had to leave a mark, not just on our hearts and our environment, but on our community. And, he wanted to be remembered. It was as if to say: “look what this person of presumably simple means and opportunity accomplished”! “Imagine what you can do”! It was his “Kilroy was here” tattoo on Easton. Lee left us a message: “if I can do it, you can, too”.
The imprint Lee made on Easton is tangible. You need not look far to see how our lives are touched by this man. No single person knows the extent of his influence, of his generosity or of the value he brought to us. But know this: Easton is better for having had Avery Lee Williams among us.
Tonight we’ll all hopefully retire to our homes and the comfort of a warm bed. As you drift off, ask yourself this question: what will I do to leave my imprint on our community? The farmer in Lee would love to see what you harvest.
by Andrew Parker
Easton Lions President 2021-2022
Lee Williams loved being loved being a Lion. He enjoyed the camaraderie, the commitment to service and the fact that we exist to help strengthen the community. Being a Lion was a large part of his personal identity.
As you know, Lee would drop a few lines of poetry into every event. One poem. that he shortened and repeated often encapsulated his view of the world, and why he was so proud to be a Lion.
There are two kinds of people on earth today
Two kinds of people, no more I say
Not the good or the bad, for tis well understood
The good are half bad, and the bad are half good
The two kinds of people on earth I mean
Are the people who lift and the people who lean
Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Lee was a lifter.
He was also our Chief Recruiter. He personally bought in over 250 members to the Easton Lions Club, an accomplishment that gave him
national recognition in 2019.
So I know that he would be disappointed if I did not use this opportunity to say, “has anyone asked you to Join the Easton Lions Club?” I have applications in my pocket. Start a line over here and we’ll get you all signed in.
The Easton Lions will miss Lee greatly.
by Matthew Soeldner
Easton Lions Past Secretary
I have a hard time thinking of Lee being gone. He had a profound influence on my life for the over 50 plus years that I knew him. He hadn’t really changed over those years, he put in 100% effort into whatever he was working on.
Back in the late 60’s and early 70’s he donated a lot of time to the Easton Youth Center, first getting the space at St Mark’s Church and working on expanding it with an addition. Helping us fund raise to pay for it and offering suggestions for how to keep revenue going. One idea was for us to make and sell pizza, but what we were lacking was a pizza oven. No problem. Downtown Brockton was dying at the time, as most businesses were moving to Westgate mall. I believe it was Kresge’s Department store had a pizza oven, a big cast iron one. No problem, we will just bring about 5 teenagers and get it out. We couldn’t budge it never mind bring it up from the basement. Somehow, Lee conjures up a couple of teamsters and up goes the oven. Did we make any money-making pizza? — No, but it was just Lee seeing an opportunity and going for it.
He introduced me to local political races and got me interested in politics from State Reps to the Board of Selectmen (sorry folks this was the 60’s and 70’s) to School Committee races. He asked me to join the Jaycees and later on the Lions, twice. He kept trying to get me back for a third time, but I think it was only to get a new hat, that Andrew promised him if he could. I never regretted joining, although I was still young, I learned a lot from Lee. Did I always agree with his ideas? — No, but it wasn’t worth losing his friendship.
We had some laughs and shared memories from back in those days, there will never be another one like Lee.
My deepest sympathy to his family, you and the Easton Lions Club. I was not able to get out your way to often but when I did go to the thrift shop or visit your Club I always made it a point to talk to Lee. He could always inspire you to be a better recruiter. I knew Lee, I think, all of my 28 years in Lions. I thought I had the gift to talk to anyone about Lions and joining the cause. That is until I met Lee and he blew me away with his knowledge and gift to convince you to be a Lion. Normally when I got done talking to him I wanted to join again. Ha Ha. Lee will be missed by many, including me, and I know some will be glad not to here his voice continue on about membership but put the challenge out to those members to help keep your membership increasing by using the methods he used.
Roland Grenier, MLERF
Lee, thank you for sharing this journey. You touched so many lives and hearts that you will be carried on my friend. I will never forget how you made me feel. No matter what the day was like, you always made me feel welcome and hopeful for what lies ahead!
Matthew Cioffi, Past President 2016-2017
I find I cannot offer anything but an enthusiastic AMEN to the other tributes above. He was a gigantic personality and my good friend for 25+ years and I will miss him sorely.
Carl Johannesen, Past President 2000-2001
– Lee had a huge impact on Easton and on me personally. He demonstrated how to lead one’s life authentically, graciously, and admirably and acted as an excellent role model for us all. I greatly appreciate all that he did for our community. What an admirable legacy he leaves.
– He was truly an inspiration! I will hold the thought of knowing him and being friends near and dear to my heart, always! I am so sad for losing such a great man!
– He will always be remembered & missed & will never be forgotten! They just didn’t come any better than Lee.
– Humanity has lost a great person who worked tirelessly in every endeavor he was involved in.
– Lee was my mentor when I first joined the Lions many years ago.
– He was one heck of a Lion!
Hurtling down a black diamond trail at Loon Mountain, his ski caught an edge and sent him headlong and helmet-less into the gnarled tree’s trunk. He died instantly.
Though it might not, and probably did not happen just that way, it is how he would have wanted to be remembered. Nothing done the easy way, Williams, a “Furnace Village Rat”, lived and died in Easton. Born June 29, 1935 in the midst of the Great Depression and scarred by the turmoil of those depressing years.
His folks, Avery, Sr and Margaret Adams Williams were renting the second floor of the Warren (and Ethyl) Blood house behind what has been the Blackthorne Tavern, previously the Pickle Barrel run by the Blood twins, George and Gene.
Lee lived there for about his first three years, but not without incident. He made the front page of the Boston Globe having been bit on the thumb by a poisonous snake, nearly died after falling into the cesspool and drank enough kerosene from the 50 gallon drum behind the Farnum house to put him into a prolonged coma. More than one Eastonite regrets he survived for all the trouble he caused them over his lifetime.
He lived the next twenty-five years at 455 Foundry Street. His dad built the house. Lee fell into the hand dug well, but again escaped drowning, when his dad heard his cries for help and lugged him up in a bucket. It was work at the early age of ten years when Lee went on the job for Frank Gracie, the small dairyman at the Five Corners, now the site of Shaw’s Plaza. Lee picked strawberries and pulled weeds for the handsome pay of ten cents an hour. It was only a six hour day and Mr. Gracie gave him an extra nickel with which to buy a candy bar bigger than one that costs a dollar today. At age twelve he graduated to haying chores. Lee had the short pitchfork with which he placed the loose hay pitched up to him on the wagon into the corners. The Nordbeck and Schleicher boys did the pitching.
From 1947 to 1949 Lee had a paper route for what was the Brockton Enterprise. One had to vie to get a coveted route. The paper was six days a week with no Sunday edition. The cost was four cents a day or twenty-four cents a week. Most customers gave the quarter each week. With the extra penny times the forty two customers, Lee had a nice bonus with which to treat himself. The route was four miles each way and his first customer on South Street was a mile from his home. His last customer was Laurie “The Blind Mechanic” Rego, who played Sweet Georgia Brown on the piano each day for Lee, who never outgrew his love for traditional music.
Lee served as Mr.Helmich Boosenkool’s “yardboy” at Wheaton Farm for several years. There he learned organic gardening techniques that he followed over his lifetime.
A family friend, Mr. Edward Milano got Lee a job at Harco Orchards and Poultry Farm and he worked there for the next three years. Pay was seventy-five cents an hour and during non-school days it was a fifty-four hour work week. When school was in session he worked only 28 hours a week. He paid board at home of five dollars a week. He had been buying all his clothes from the age of twelve. When he decided to get a car at age fifteen and a half, his dad told him he’d keep the board at five dollars, but if Lee bought a car the fee went to ten dollars. Lee bought the 1939 Ford Standard Coupe from Dick Hanscom for seventy five dollars and paid the ten dollar toll. He got his driver’s license the week after he turned sixteen.
Peanuts was the name of the old horse that pulled the water wagon through the chicken yards at Harco. Lee was dressed in cut off dungarees and a straw hat. No shoes needed, except the time Peanuts stepped on his big toe and disfigured it for life. Brown as a berry, he paid the price at dermatologists for many years after for the excess sun exposure he took. To entertain the other farmhands at lunchtime, Lee would do ten handsprings in a row. He was five foot eleven and weighed one hundred and forty five pounds. When Lee graduated from OAHS in 1953 he had $3,200 in the bank. A small fortune for that time.
With no other plans upon graduating from Oliver Ames High School in 1953, Lee told his dad he’d like to try going to Bridgewater State Teachers College. Avery, Sr. told Lee that he had had no schooling beyond the tenth year and saw no need for Lee to go on with his education. He told Lee that if he did not go to college, he’d keep the board at ten dollars, otherwise the rate would go to fifteen. Lee graduated from Bridgewater State in 1957 majoring in English and minoring in French.
While going to college he worked in kitchens as a second (line) cook at Howard Johnson’s, the Merrimacs Restaurant, Sylvia Sweets and three summers at the Hampton Beach Casino Restaurant in New Hampshire.
In July of ’57 came his draft notice. Lee decided to join the U S Air Force and become a pilot. He failed the eye tests, but was encouraged to try again as a navigator – he who could not find his way from Easton to Whitman! It was good luck for America that he failed the visual test again and joined the National Guard, where he could do less harm. He served six months on active duty, trained as a Company Clerk, served as a Company Cook (standard for the Army) and later was allowed to be Commander of Easton’s Post 7 American Legion on such flimsy military service.
During his Army basic training he met a fellow serviceman whose father worked in Wall Street. Lee, who did not take a drink of an alcoholic beverage until age 26, spent his spare time on base at the library reading up on investments. Once in a poker game in the barracks at Fort Dix, Lee holding a hidden full house in pot limit seven card stud bet whatever was in the pot. A fellow dog face named Whelan with a high straight wanted to call so badly he could taste it, but had no cash to cover the bet. Lee asked him “what might you have of value to put into the pot” – Whelan said “wait right here” and headed for his foot locker. He came back with a 32 automatic pistol (unloaded) and put it on the pile of cash. When Lee got home with the gun his mother, Margaret (nee Adams) was apoplectic. She hid the weapon until Lee went to his dentist, Dr. Walter Chisholm. He traded the pistol for two fillings that went with him in his casket. After discharge from the Army, Lee went to New York City to work in Brooklyn as an accounts clerk. After six months he landed a job in Wall Street as a Specialists Broker’s clerk on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. He attended the New York Institute of Finance evenings and talked his boss into getting him licensed as a “Customer’s Man”, later known as a stock broker with Hemphill Noyes & Co. That made it January 1st of 1960.
He returned to his hometown of Easton, joined the Jaycees, became local and State President and became involved in Easton’s government and civic affairs. His resume (included below) shows a multitude of activities in which he took part.
Along with “Ole McDonald” Lee had a farm on Beatty Lane and there he raised all the family’s beef, pork, poultry, lamb, and rabbits for meat. Of course, milking Jersey cows and goats, gathering eggs and honey from bees were standard fare. He taught classes and lectured on organic gardening and subsistence living and was a frequent speaker on farm related topics at many civic organizations. Youngsters in the neighborhood came by to “work” on the farm and all were taught to say “sir” to the men, “ma’am” to the ladies and “please and thank you” to all. Sheep Pasture did not have its programs running at this time, so school classes and groups including the Massachusetts Horticultural Society did regular tours of the mini-farm. Lee led an Organic 4H Organic Garden Club for six years.
When a person needed a guest speaker on a moment’s notice, a call to Lee would bring him to your club, church, synagogue or school to speak on any of several topics from population stabilization to organic gardening to stock market trends. He could (and did on one occasion) speak for an hour from totally memorized poetry, toasts and sayings.
In the last fifty years, Avery Lee Williams was into just about anything that went on in Easton of any consequence. He wrote this obituary to let all know that they are not to have any regrets at his passing (nor gloat over the fact that he is gone), but just know that he enjoyed life to the fullest and will miss all his family and friends. He has put the words “I told you I was sick” on his grave stone at the South Easton Cemetery. Maybe that will induce somebody to drop by and chuckle a bit at the whimsy.
Williams is survived by his beautiful wife of 57 years, Elizabeth C. “Betty” Williams, his son Kevin, daughter-in-law Hala, Grandson Nick, Granddaughter Nora Yousif and his Grandnephew Doumit Yammine. Relatives on the Williams side are too numerous to mention, but Lee loved them all.
A private showing will be held Sunday, September 26th at Kane Funeral Home at 9am followed by a graveside ceremony at 10:15am open to the public at South Easton Cemetery located at 473 Washington Street; Easton, MA. He would have wanted his life to be celebrated, and that’s what we shall do.
In lieu of flowers, please make donations in his memory to the fund he established for his beloved Town of Easton for a grand 300 year anniversary in 2025. Checks can be made payable to the Town of Easton with the notation “300th celebration fund” written on the miscellaneous line and may be sent to the Town Treasurer at 136 Elm Street; Easton, MA 02356.
Born – Easton, Massachusetts, June 29, 1935
Married – to Elizabeth “Betty” Claudine Cavanagh Williams since December 28, 1963
Son – Kevin L Williams – Born September 30, 1964
Foster Children – three
Residency – Lifelong of Easton. Great-grandfather, Francis “Frank” H. Williams built
family homestead at 531 Turnpike Street, South Easton
Winter – Cape Coral, Fl
Summer – Saquish Head, Plymouth, Ma
Military – U.S. Army National Guard – 1957-65
Education – Oliver Ames High School, North Easton, Ma – Class of ‘53
Bridgewater State College, BS Ed (English major, French minor) Class of ‘57
New York Institute of Finance – 1958
College for Financial Planning – Certified Financial Planner designation ‘79
Occupation – Stock Broker and Financial planner for 55 plus years. Partner with son, Kevin and granddaughter, Nora Yousif
Affiliations – Past
Easton Heart Association town Chairman
Old Colony United Fund – five years
Easton League of Women Voters – 10 years
4H Organic Garden Club leader – six years
Citizens Scholarship Foundation – Founding member 1961 to 1965 Easton
Past President – Easton Jaycees 1963-64
Trustee of Massachusetts Jaycees Headquarters Trust for 26 years. Chair for 15
Easton Little League Baseball – Coach and Manager
Teacher – Stonehill College and Oliver Ames High School Adult Ed –
Investments & Organic Gardening
Past State President – Massachusetts Jaycees – 1966-67
Chair – Mass Jaycees Headquarters Trust 22 years – directed $75,000 to three
Easton non-profits – NRT, Lions & VFW
Past State President – Zero Population Growth – 1972-73
National Board of Directors – Zero Population Growth – 1972-73
Sun House Trust – a half-way house in Brockton, Ma (22 years, 15 as Chair of
Board) (Directed $20,000 Easton’s NRT)
Easton Youth Center – Construction Chair 1976
Metro South Chamber of Commerce – Director and Vice President 1990-95
Active – Easton Chamber of Commerce – 1996-2001
Past Master (President) Easton Grange #196
Affiliations – Present
Past Commander – Post 7 American Legion
Lions Club – 40 year member – Melvin Jones Fellow
Natural Resources Trust of Easton – active member
Easton Historical Society – member
Friends of the Ames Free Library – Active member – Member of 1882 Club
Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants – active member – (2 lines
Edward Fuller & Francis Cooke) Auctioneer of Pekowsky Collection.
Bridgewater State University – Alumni Association – member of class
reunion committee – member of 1886 Club of benefactors – scholarship
established for international travel
Oliver Ames High School
Chairman class of 1953 Multi-Class Reunion for over 15 years & keeper of
rosters years 1947 through 1965
Town of Easton elected and appointed
Planning and Zoning Board – 1960-65
Town Government Study Committee – two years
Easton Charter Commission – signature drive chair
Easton 250th Anniversary Celebration Committee – 1975
Easton 275th Anniversary Celebration Committee – 2000
Member at Large – Easton’s CPA Committee – 2001 to 2020
Awards and Honors
Jaycees – JCI Senator #6897
Jaycees – Easton’s Outstanding Young Man – 1976
Lions – Melvin Jones Fellow – 1991
American Legion – Top Recruiter in State Award – 1998
Lions – Easton’s Citizen of the Year – 2011
Old Colony YMCA – Leadership Award winner for 2012
Community Preservation Coalition – Kuehn Community Preservation Award
winner 2013 – one of four in the state of Massachusetts
National Aging in Place, Mass. – “Slice of Life” winner – 2014
Boston Business Journal – Executive Profile – 2014
Lions – named top new member recruiter in USA with over 250 sponsored – 2019
Easton Historical Commission – 2020 – Chaffin Award for Historical preservation
Natural Resources Trust of Easton – 2020 – Elise Ames Parker award for conservation
A street in Easton and a Grandniece are named for me – Avery
Hobbies and Interests
Organic gardening – had subsistence farm for 15 years
Public Speaking – motivational – poetry – toasts
Auctioneering – charitable only
Skiing – Europe, Western USA and New England
Travel – has 17 year local TV show – “Travels with Lee”
Reading – history
Political campaigns – manager of many – loser of few
Sun House Trust (directed funds)
$20,000 to NRT’s Sheep Pasture to restore foundation of Parker mansion
Jaycee Headquarters Trust (directed funds)
$25,000 – Lions to name Jaycee-Lions baseball field
$25,000 – VFW to Underwrite cost of Korea War Memorial
$25,000 – to NRT’s Sheep Pasture to build Jaycee Stable Barn
Personal and ALW Family Trust donations:
$20,000 – Easton Lions Holiday Festival lighting
$2,000 – Easton Garden Club – irrigation system for Main Street flower planters
$10,000 – NRT Sheep Pasture composting toilet
$25,000 – Ames Free Library – naming of pergola at Queset Gardens
$10,000 – Easton Historical Society – “Margaret Adams Williams Powder Room” at Railroad Station
$6,800 – Oliver Ames High School naming of wood working room in memory of Avery L Williams, Sr.
$2,500 – Community Gardens at Wheaton farm – water pipe from street to gardens
$15,000 – Scholarship at SE Regional HS in memory of Margaret Adams Williams
$10,000 – Stone entrance columns at Frothingham Memorial Park.
$20,000 – Town Clock on Main Street
$20,000 – Smith Farmhouse – name room & Challenge Grant with Easton Lions
$100,000+ – Bridgewater State University Travel Scholarship (cont, 2nd to die)
$10,000 – Oakes Ames Memorial hall – underwrite engineer’s plans
$10,000 – Ali’s Park – sponsor pavilion
$2,500 – Eagle Scout project – Max Rhodes
$5,000 – Center School PAC – Library fundraiser
$20,000 – NRT of Easton – new barn construction
$15,000 – Easton Legacy Fund
$1,000 or more to
Ames Free Library
Borderland State Park Art Exhibit
Bridgewater State University
Duxbury Beach Reservation
Gurnet Saquish Association
Children’s Museum of Easton
Easton Garden Club
Easton Lions Club
Easton Shovel Town Cultural District
Friends of Borderland
General Society of Mayflower Descendants
House of Possibilities
Old Colony YMCA
Oakes Ames Memorial Hall
SE Regional HS scholarship
$500 or more to
Easton Historical Society
Oakes Ames Memorial Hall