Robert Newell Williams of Alabaster, Alabama passed away peacefully Monday, November 13th surrounded by people who loved him. He is survived by his wife Aina Williams, his children Mark Williams (Sarah Feit) and Jenine Larsen (Shane Millener), and grandchildren Zoe, Margaret, Micah, Benjamin, and Noah. He is also survived by his brother Larry Williams (Kim Williams) of Miami, and sister-in-law Eiko Williams of Washington DC. Robert is predeceased by his brothers Rodney Williams of Washington DC and Leslie Williams of Atlanta.
Robert was born in Birmingham, Alabama on March 3, 1939, to Eldridge Estelle Hartsfield and Newell Everidge Williams. His mother Eldridge passed away from scarlet fever when he was only three months old. Robert attended Jones Valley High School, where he was the trumpet player for a Dixieland band called the Southern Aires, which recorded an album in 1958.
After high school Robert attended Birmingham Southern College on scholarship. He later transferred to Auburn University and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Building Technology in 1962, but always had a hard time rooting against Bear Bryant. He was a member of Army ROTC while at Auburn, and upon graduation was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Army. He initially was part of a tank crew but attended flight school soon afterwards and was deployed to Vietnam after leaving flight school. In Vietnam, he flew U-1A Otters, a small cargo plane frequently used to resupply military outposts. He safely piloted the hostilities of the war and the cloudy tropical climate and mountainous terrain of Vietnam. His calling to serve was one of the driving forces of his life.
In late 1966 he first saw his future wife, Aina Feldmanis, across the street from his downtown Birmingham office, and it was love at first sight. Coincidentally, they had a mutual friend, who arranged a meeting, and they were married in March 1967. They stayed happily married for 56 years.
In 1973, Robert and Aina moved their young family to Melbourne, Australia to be near Aina’s family in Tasmania. They stayed in Australia for three years before moving back to Birmingham. Robert began working for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, where he stayed until his retirement. He also remained a member of the Army Reserves and the Alabama National Guard until retirement on his 60th birthday in 1999. In the Reserves and National Guard, he flew the Bell UH-1 Iroquois, better known as the Huey.
Robert lived a complete and fulfilling life, and we were all lucky to have been loved by him for so long. He was the most caring, kind, and generous person, and a presence of calm in the lives of the people around him. Services will be held at Charter Funeral Home at 2521 Highway 31 in Calera on Monday, November 20th. A visitation will begin at 10:00 am followed by a service at 11:00 am. Robert will be laid to rest with military honors in the Alabama National Cemetery at 12:30 pm.