Lee Williams, 1946 – 2015
Norman Rockwell Museum
President: 2000 – 2004
Trustee: 1994 – 2015
It is with great sadness and gratitude for his life, that we mark the passing of former Board President Lee A. Williams, at the too young age of 69. Lee led the Museum board from 2000 – 2004, and served as a museum trustee from 1994 – 2010 and trustee emeritus from 2010 – 2015. He chaired the marketing committee for many years while president of Country Curtains, the homemaking and curtain company founded by Museum founders Jane and Jack Fitzpatrick prior to serving as board president.
Norman Rockwell Museum is fortunate to have an extraordinary lineage of trustee leaders who have guided each chapter of the Museum’s growth, pairing the needed expertise with the right phase of the Museum’s history. We honor and thank these leaders who have given selflessly of their wisdom and wealth, working diligently to ensure the Museum’s success.
Often leading quietly, these leaders never shy from challenges. What could be challenging running an art museum you might ask? Like any business, external and internal forces buffet an institution and require deft leadership.
Lee became President at an exciting time for the Museum. During his leadership we formed and launched the Museum’s National Council, which has grown into an outstanding group of ambassadors and supporters. We launched ProjectNORMAN and initiated the digital arm of the Museum. Having just launched our first major traveling exhibition, Pictures for the American People, in 1999, Lee represented the Museum at openings on the national tour, which culminated at the Guggenheim Museum in 2001, the autumn following the events of September 11, which were to substantially change the world.
Lee guided the Museum through strategic planning, inviting our community to read The Fourth Turning by William Strauss and Neil Howe, which urged us to think about the world through the eyes of generational turning. Was September 11th the great turning point to usher in a new era? It was too soon to know, but it did usher in a period of dramatic change that brought with it recession, war, changing visitor patterns, the tech bubble, and the advent of new internet-based business drivers that he was adroit at leading.
Lee was a cherished friend, always wise and kind, compassionate and big-hearted. As we wrestled with the impacts of the recession, Lee was people-focused. As I managed a particularly difficult personal chapter in my life, a period of loss of my parents and several friends, he was a rock of strength and compassion as we pondered life’s fragility and meaning. I observed him care for his elderly aunt and care equally for his family and corporate family. He was an extraordinary mentor to me. I can’t once remember when I sought his advice, him telling me what to do in a particular situation, but after meeting with him and discussing various issues, I always left with clarity, somehow knowing what I needed to do.
Lee leaves his beautiful wife Cindy, of Venice, FL, and Canandaigua, NY; beloved children Matthew, Jeanne, and Amy; sister Marcia and many admirers and friends in the Berkshires and his communities. Arrangements for his memorial are pending.
God speed Lee. You were fond of saying that after a visit to Norman Rockwell Museum, people always left happier. You made the world a better place, Lee, and made everyone happier because of you.
Laurie Norton Moffatt