Willow blog

A tribute to David Williams

August 31, 2017

Today we have to say a final goodbye to a gentleman who made a significant and lasting impact at Willow, our founding Chief Executive David Williams, who sadly passed away all too soon on August 15th. Our Co-Founders and Life Presidents, Bob and Megs Wilson, have written the following eulogy in tribute to David whose spirit and inspiration will live on through Willow: 

“Imagine the transition! There he was as Air Commodore David Williams OBE, in charge of thousands, mainly men, in a career that had spanned 35 years. He applied for the vacancy of CEO, the first high level appointment to a four year old local charity consisting of half a dozen women, some passionate trustees and a co-founder who had played for Arsenal. As an avid Tottenham supporter I guess David wanted a bigger challenge than the Gulf war!

Willow was a charity founded by my husband Bob and me to give Special Days to seriously ill young adults aged between 16 to 40.  

David instantly understood the cause, took Willow to heart and began seven years of giving the charity the most amazing foundation it could possibly have. He didn’t sit behind a desk and issue orders. He rolled up his sleeves and dived into the work of making Willow a vibrant charity available to all who were eligible.  

After two years he took it to national status and in the seven years of him being CEO the numbers of Special Days rose from 123 days per year to an amazing 1500, with a staff of 40.  

But numbers don’t tell the whole story. He was a true leader, one who inspired those who worked for him and who gained their respect for the way he treated them.  

They were mildly amused by his penchant for a daily lunch of cheese and pickle sandwich and a Mars Bar, but they could always talk to him, ask his advice and share their concerns.  

After he stepped down as CEO he continued to work for Willow, until his untimely departure this August. His love of sport, and particularly Tottenham Hotspur, meant that golf days, football events and all things active had the full backing of David’s enthusiasm. His effortless communication skills at handling long term supporters, celebrities and those new to Willow helped cement the charity in people’s hearts.

Bob and I have worked alongside David for the past 14 years. He was a gentleman, whose kindness and humour brought out the best in those around him.

We loved him as a friend and will always be thankful that he was the one who made Willow what it is today.   

I can give no better praise to David than to quote the words written by one of Willow’s supporters:

‘David: I have rarely met anybody that I like as much as I like you. Your kindness, gentle and ever sensitive manner as well as the way that you handle yourself and others, particularly (dare I say it) in a crisis is remarkable, inspirational and a humbling lesson. We live in a great but sometimes cruel world but you always offer perspective and common sense.’
I know everyone who new him would echo those sentiments. David, thank you for everything.”

David will be sorely missed by all those who knew him at Willow but his energy, humour, positivity and passion will live on through every Special Day we create for those who need them most.