Midlander stood up for disability rights

Tom Williams remembered kindness and advocacy for the disabled

Published 11:01 AM EST Thursday, February 25, 2021

  • Tom and Char Williams in 2014.

    Tom and Char Williams in 2014.

    Photo: Photo Provided / Elaine Popovich

Photo: Photo Provided / Elaine Popovich

Tom and Char Williams in 2014.

Tom and Char Williams in 2014.

Photo: Photo Provided / Elaine Popovich

Midlander campaigned for disability rights

Thomas “Tom” Williams not only stood up for people with disabilities like him, but lived his life according to his convictions. Williams of Midland died on February 10 at the age of 67.

Williams was born July 20, 1953 and lived in the Mount Pleasant Regional Center for Developmental Disorders from the ages of 12 to 26. There he met Charlotte “Char” and in 1980 the two were taken to a group home in Midland with some of their friends. Together, Tom and Char advocated the right to marry and live in their own home. In 1988 they were successful on both counts and lived together in a house provided by Reece Endeavor.

“Tom was supposed to be moving in with a buddy, but Tom decided he wanted to live with Charlotte,” said Elaine Popovich, operations director at Reece Endeavor.

“It was a big deal. In those days the group home was still attached to the facility and there were some oversights. Some people didn’t think it was a good idea (for Tom and Char to move in together), ”said Jan Lampman, who was both a good friend of Tom’s friend and his direct support expert.

But the Williams didn’t stop there. In addition to traveling to Lansing and Washington DC in their spare time, they also traveled to campaign for causes such as homelessness and the Disabled Americans Act.

Tom worked locally at the Arnold Center and as a recipient rights assistant at Midland-Gladwin Community Mental Health Services, where he trained staff and residents of group homes to identify and address legal violations. Eventually, Tom and Char founded TCW Consulting where they toured the country teaching others how to support people with developmental disabilities and help them be part of society as a whole.

“He created a large circle of supporters to get the things he wanted,” said Lampman.

Tom volunteered on the Reece Endeavor Tenants and Operations Committee and the People First advocacy group. Tom served on the board of directors of Reece Endeavor from 1995 to 2004 and Charlotte from 2008 to 2014. One of Tom’s favorite pastimes later in life was being a volunteer ringtone for the Salvation Army.

“He didn’t always get the comfortable spots. He was out in the weather, but he loved it, ”said Popovich.

“He fell in love with the role. It gave him the opportunity to interact with people in the community, ”explained Lampman.

In addition to promoting the rights of people with disabilities, Tom used his voice to honor direct support professionals. Lampman explained how Tom tried to get his staff uplifted, along with the respect they deserved. One of the last conversations they’d had was about his desire to continue making a difference after he died. His obituary asks for donations to the Salvation Army and the Reece Endeavor and for participation by thanking professionals for direct support and advocating for the rights of people with disabilities.

Both Lampman and Popovich said Tom would be remembered for his kindness and touch of hundreds of lives.

“By and large, I hope Tom’s legacy is that everyone can contribute to their community,” said Lampman.

Before Tom, Charlotte died, who died on October 21, 2017 at the age of 58.

The Ware-Smith-Woolever funeral parlors handled Tom’s arrangements. A picnic to celebrate his life is planned for this spring.

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