Tag Archives: friendship

Remembering Stuart


Stuart Williamson

A distant friend died a few days ago. Stuart Williamson was somewhat distant in miles and through infrequent contact. When I moved to Texas in 1978 it could not have been long before I met Stuart and his wife Beth, who were married 33 years.

We were all members of Northwoods Unitarian Universalist Church in The Woodlands, TX. We also participated in weekend meetings of the Southwestern Conference, often three times a year for many years. Beth served the Conference as President, but Stuart was there, too, with quiet support.

Northwoods Church held a weekend camping trip on the Williamson property in Bedias, TX . We pitched our tents, enjoyed a glorious campfire, and appreciated their warm hospitality. A funny story: Bob Nugen, my first husband, and I went to bed relatively early, while others were still at the campfire. Morning reports were that Bob started snoring so loudly from our tent that neighboring livestock answered his “call.” I slept through it all.

Stuart and Beth were founders of a new congregation in Huntsville: now called Thoreau Woods Unitarian Universalist Church. I continued to see them at conferences around Texas. Occasionally I would travel to Huntsville to join others in protesting the death penalty outside the death house. The Williamsons would be there. It was particularly poignant when I knew the father of a condemned man. Karo Riddle had been a member of the church I served in Waco. His son Granville, an artist, was executed following a bar fight that went horribly wrong when he was 19. I was grateful to share his story with Stuart and Beth.

The last time I saw Stuart was in Livingston, TX, where I officiated at the memorial service for one of his fellow congregants, whom I had visited several times in a Houston hospital. Stuart and Beth were there along with family, friends, and many other members of their church. Six months later Stuart was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer that progressed rapidly. He died at home with Beth by his side as he took his last breath.

There is a lot more to know about Stuart (see his obituary). Seeing him every so often for decades impressed me with his steadfast dedication, his devotion to Beth, and their significant service to Unitarian Universalism in a small East Texas community.

Friendship does not require daily contact. In our case, encounters were infrequent but always welcome. Repetition added layers of connection.

Rest in peace, Stuart. Cherish the memories, Beth.

Love and blessings,




There’s more to an annual reunion than a collection of activities.We now live in Willis, Houston, Dallas, and Austin, so finding a weekend date is the biggest challenge.

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It is a journey through time that makes the miles between us incidental.

1982, 1983, 1985, 1987, 1989: In ones and twos we joined the Montgomery County Women’s Center in various capacities. We worked at the shelter for battered women and their children; we worked with volunteers; we worked with the community; we educated ourselves and others about domestic violence.

It’s easy to understand that hitting a family member even once is not okay, much less battering over and over as some of our clients experienced. Usually it starts fairly small, with put-downs, insults, complaints, and control. I say “small,” but the effect is much greater. The person you love(d?) and who expressed love to you has special power to make you feel bad even if you have done nothing wrong. Mostly it’s blamed on a dreadful day or an appalling upbringing or frustration about money, sex, religion, or power.

Anyway, we worked at the Shelter for several years then went our separate ways. One year former staff and volunteers received an invitation to the grand opening of the new shelter. What a fine facility! Security, private quarters, food preparation, children’s services, and support for the women give them such an opportunity to make decisions for their lives. They even have transitional housing and a resale shop now!

We “ladies of the eighties” found ourselves around a table to reminisce about the old days. We did everything then. Crisis calls, transportation, intake interviews, supervision, counseling, and even food inventory filled our 12-hour shifts. An occasional batterer disturbed our sleep by pounding on the door and demanding to see someone. We knew the police on the beat, the ones who would help women get their own belongings; we knew the judges who would issue protective orders; we knew about community resources. Often only one of us was on duty at the Shelter, so we did whatever was necessary to maintain safety and a measure of normalcy.

A shared, intense experience forms a strong bond. Since that heady afternoon of remembering, we decided to meet again every year for a weekend. Some of us have been together more often, but for the annual reunion it’s worth a lot of email to find a weekend that works.

Last year was mainly a memorial reunion for one of us, Nancy Harrington, who died in a car accident on September 8, 2011. Shocking news (she was only 58) and a huge loss, but it’s even more important now that the rest of us stay in touch. Jann is the keeper of a photo album. Memories over the years have piled up: restaurants, movies, boat rides, walks and talks, homemade deliciousness. Differences in politics, religion, personality are not even part of the conversation. In fact, we are so different from one another that only the shelter brought us into the same sphere.

Illnesses, deaths, grief and loss, weight loss, job loss, relationship loss …  along with new jobs, relationships, adventures, experiences. After sharing all that it doesn’t much matter how we met. To have the support of friends who are outside your usual circle is just plain rare. Thank you all, Ellen, Gail, Jann, and Vera. Peace at last, Nancy.

Circle of Colleagues


A group of trusted peers helps many a person stay sane!

Who but the people in your line of work understand fully the challenges you face? When I was a young woman, recently married and with one then two sons to raise, neighborhood mothers offered a lifeline as we learned by experience and from each other. Since then I have often developed special relationships with co-workers.

As a clergyperson I find collegial connections essential to my formation and continuing education.

Clergy  love the people we serve but we need friends among our peers. They are the folks we can lean on in times of struggle–and there are many! My group of twelve meets monthly if we can possibly be there. We share a devotional time of reflection and ritual. We brag on our successes but more importantly we share the raw edges of our lives, the places where we’re bruised and bleeding. We are bound by mutual expectations of confidentiality so that we, too, have a safe place to be open and real.

Uncertainty, confusion and doubt? Of course.      Requests for advice? Sometimes.      Leaning on one another? By all means.

We hold one another accountable when our professionalism or actions fall short of our Code of Ethics as Unitarian Universalists. Between meetings we often follow up with a phone call of support or a one-on-one meeting. We serve as mentors to one another–either on a formal basis or through simple collegiality.

Then we go back to our ministries, refreshed and ready to serve.

Thank you, colleagues!