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Family, friends honor 'Gerald'
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Jaril "Gerald" Williams served the Effingham County School District for 41 years.
He was always doing something, but he was doing it for other people.
Patricia Carter

SPRINGFIELD — Jaril Williams had his final moment in the spotlight at old Effingham County Middle School on Friday.

Hundreds of friends and family members showed up to pay respects to a man who served the Effingham County School District for 41 years as a custodian and handyman. Affectionately known as “Gerald,” Williams, 70, died Feb. 24 at Lakeview Manor.

Williams’ open casket was positioned at midcourt, the same spot he entertained students and faculty members for generations. He loved to sing and dance during pep rallies, frequently using a broom as a microphone.

“What better place, (to have visitation)?” asked Lamar Allen, chairman of the Effingham County Board of Education,

Allen and Williams were friends for decades.

“He was the only man that I’ve ever dealt with that never said a bad word about anybody,” Allen said.

As mourners looked at Williams’ body, they were as likely to break into a smile as burst into tears. That was because he brought joy to virtually everyone he encountered during his school stint that ended in 2017.

“He was a fixture,” Effingham County Superintendent Dr. Randy Shearouse said. “It just seems like Jaril has always been around — since my career started, for sure. He was a good worker —  a good man — who liked to dance a little bit and listen to country music.

“We will miss him.”

Williams’ kindness and desire to have fun were boundless.

“He had such a good relationship with the kids,” Shearouse said. “Actually, the health department would write us up for sure now, but he had a little room in the back with a fryer and he would fry up French fries and give them to the kids. They would go crazy about that  — or he would give them candy bars.

“He just had all these things that he would give to the kids — and they were middle-school kids — and they would go crazy for getting that food.”

One of Williams’ cousins, Patricia Carter, said he was as sweet as the candy he distributed.

“He was so generous, so kind and everybody loved him,” she said. “He was just love.” 

Well, not entirely. Williams was also about work — and lots of it. In addition to his school job, he was employed by a gas station and worked at restaurants.

“He was born and reared that way,” Carter said. “I think (his work ethic) was instilled in him by his parents and grandparents.”

All the stories told about Williams during Friday’s visitation had a familiar theme.

“He always had a smile on his face,” Carter said. “He is going to be truly missed. I think everybody who comes through this door will have something good to say about Gerald.”

Nellar Lonon of Smalls Funeral Home, the company in charge of his arrangements, knew Williams longer than most anyone. She and her siblings grew up playing with him and his family members. They were also cousins.

Surprisingly, Lonon said she doesn’t have a favorite Williams story. She has a treasure trove of memories about him, however. 

“I was just one of the little ones that he got to spoil,” Lonon said. “By the time I came along, he was already giving candy away. He was a little older (than me and my siblings).”

Williams’ personality is what Lonon’s remembers most about him.

“He was happy-go-lucky since we were little boys and girls,” she said.

Carter mentioned another key component of Williams’ legacy.

“He was always doing something, but he was doing it for other people,” she said.