Dan Williams, a 1963 Marion graduate, has lived an extraordinary life.
The son of Marjorie and Harold Williams, Dan’s seen his share of adventures, trials, and tribulations.
Growing up on the Williams farm on 20th Avenue south of Marion, Dan learned a little bit about a hard day’s work. In between milking cows and harvesting the fields, he grew up hunting and fishing, and taking advantage of the outdoors. One of his favorite spots was the old swimming hole at Twin Bridges, just up the road from his home.
But after graduating from Ferris State and joining the Navy during the Vietnam era, Dan spent most of his life away from Marion.
He, along with his previous wife Mary Ann, raised 4 daughters together: Kathy, Laurie, Denise, and Tina. The couple also had a pair of twins who passed away at only 11 months of age.
And 7 years ago, Mary Ann lost her battle with illness and passed. Dan sold his home in Greenville, and moved home, to Marion, to be closer to family.
But it was his faith that got him through all the difficult times. And in a way, it was faith that led him to one of his greatest joys – his current wife, Lola.
The couple met at Hope Baptist Church in Harrison, where Lola was the organist. Dan invited her to go on a fishing trip. And while they didn’t catch any fish, they’ve been together ever since.
These days, Dan stays plenty active. He’s a deacon at Marion’s Baptist Church, where Lola plays the piano. He’s the quartermaster at Marion’s VFW, and the couple are both members of the Osceola County Republicans, and the Osceola Township Association. In their limited free time, they enjoy spending time with family and friends, and fishing.
We caught up with Dan recently and learned a little bit more about his life, and his story. We learned that Dan Williams is certainly more than just another face in the crowd.
Marion Press: Were you born and raised in Marion?
Dan: It’s a unique kind of thing. You know Fosnaught’s Funeral Home? I was born and I’m going to be interred at the same place, Fosnaught’s Funeral Home; during the war it was a maternity place. That’s what I’ve been told my whole life at least, so I’m going to assume that that’s true.
MP: What kept you busy as a kid? Did you have a big family?
Dan: The family consisted of mom and dad and Peggy and Dennis and I. We lived out on the farm where Peggy and Bob [live now]. We raised all kinds of critters. Dad worked at Michigan Gas Storage and did farming on the side. I played some sports in high school; baseball, and my favorite was football. Just kid stuff. Fished down at the river, and swam down at Twin Bridges. We used to dive off the top of the old bridge there. It used to be all cleaned out with a nice beach to work off from down below the bridge; not anymore though, you can’t hardly get in there.
We had milk cows – that was back when you had the old separator. The milk truck came around and our milk was put in the old style cream cans. I figured I was really grown up once I could pick up one of them cans and put it in the truck. We had pigs, and chickens, and horses for a while. Dad raised different crops there, and he had some farm equipment and so he’d farm us out! I remember he had an old combine, and I have to go combine other people’s stuff.
MP: After graduating high school, where did life take you?
Dan: I went to Ferris State College for HVAC, and then I went into the Navy. I did get married in ’66 to my first wife, Mary Ann. We went to radio school in Bainbridge, Maryland. We had basic training in Chicago, and she had a brother in that area, so she came down for that. I was on an aircraft carrier ported in Long Beach, California, and we were able to get Navy housing, so she moved out there and that’s where we had our first child. She was in the hospital with our second child when North Korea shot down one of our planes. I was on the carrier that went up in there to try to decoy and see if they would do anything with it. And they didn’t, thankfully.
MP: So you spent much of your life away from Marion. When did you come back?
Dan: I moved back here about 6 and a half years ago. I stayed with my daughter, in Laurie and Rob Kohlhaus’s garage in a little apartment. They went to Hope Baptist Church in Harrison, and I rode with them over there to church most of the time. And while I was there, a young lady [Lola] snagged me. So I took her from Hope Baptist to Marion Baptist Church, and now she’s the organist here at the church.
MP: Tell us about that.
Dan: When I was going to [church at Hope Baptist] I told Lola that I would take her fishing. Then it kind of slipped my mind, but she reminded me part way through the summer and we went on a fishing trip. We got out into the lake a ways, then my motor quit and it wouldn’t run. So I’d have to pull it to start it and go a little bit just to get us back to the dock. And that was all the fishing we’d done – didn’t even put a line in the water. I figured she’d get rid of me over that, but she didn’t! I asked her to marry me on the 9th of October and we got married on the 20th of October in 2017. She was wanting to wait until Thanksgiving, but I wasn’t in the mood for that. Her husband passed away just shortly after my wife passed away.
MP: And you’re a big part of the local VFW. What do you enjoy the most about being a part of the VFW?
Dan: The comradeship that we have with other veterans. I try to be a light for the Lord through that organization. We try to help people in the community. We have friends that need a wheelchair or things like that, and we’ll supply that for them. It’s a good organization that serves the community wheel. We have picked up a couple of new members, but right now everybody is down in Florida! Right now, we’re looking for veterans and people that know of veterans that would like to have their name on the memorial downtown.
MP: You’re also part of the Osceola County Republicans. Have you always been active in politics?
Dan: That’s more recent. But that’s something that both Lola and I have talked about. We flat out disagree with what’s going on in our country and state. And that includes both republicans and democrats… I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not going to change the mind of the president or the vice president or any members of congress; they’re set in their ways. If I want to change the direction this country’s going, I’ve got to start at the local level. That’s where it’s got to start. That’s why we got involved.
MP: You’re a deacon at Marion Baptist, and you’ve seen your fair share of tragedy… how has faith played a role in your life?
Dan: I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for faith. You’ve got to accept Jesus Christ as your savior. My pastor down there at Cedar Springs got me to do that, and made me understand things. Up here, the desire was there to help serve the pastor [Dennis Williams] at the church, so they put me in as a deacon there. Getting through these things… Once you understand and accept the fact that I’m not here to do what I want to do… The Lord wants me to have a good time, and have a job and do all the kind of stuff, but my goal is to glorify him.
So if I go through a trial, the scripture tells us that he will allow it, but he’ll also use it to further his gospel.
MP: What do you enjoy the most about being a part of the Marion Baptist Church?
Dan: Just the fact that I am a part of it. I’m a part of the family of God, and I’m a part of the church family. When we have services, we have good Christian fellowship, and that uplifts me, and hopefully in the process of that, I hopefully uplift other people in the church.
MP: What do you enjoy the most about being back in your hometown?
Dan: It’s a nice, quiet town – that’s what Lola says. That’s a good way to put it. Being here, for me, brings back some good memories, and it just feels like this is where I belong.
MP: Who have been your role models?
Dan: My dad, Harold. Pastor Tom down at the church in Cedar Springs. John Wayne! My dad worked hard to support and give his family what he didn’t have when he was growing up. And he taught me my work ethic, and hunting and fishing, and how to survive in this world. Back then, you had troubles to deal with too, you know.
MP: What’s the best advice you’ve been given? What’s worked for you?
Dan: Being in church, the Lord is a big part of my life now. Being of service to other people; help people when you can. You’ve got understand, that we are here not only for us. That our main purpose on Earth is to serve God. Once one realizes that, other things come together.
Faces in the Crowd: Dan Williams
Dan Williams, a 1963 Marion graduate, has lived an extraordinary life.