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Charlotte antiviolence activist Judy Williams remembered in service 1 year after her death

Nick de la Canal
David Howard, left, joins other family and friends of community activist Judy Williams at Gethsemane Cemetery and Memorial Gardens for a ceremony remembering her life on Sunday, Oct. 10, 2021.

Judy Williams may have died a year ago, but her spirit was rekindled Sunday in Charlotte's Gethsemane Cemetery and Memorial Gardens as her family and friends gathered to remember and honor her life.

Williams — known to many as Miss Judy — was a passionate antiviolence activist in Charlotte who helped found Mothers for Murdered Offspring.

She founded the group after her goddaughter, Shawna Hawk, was killed in 1993 and she found there was no local support group to help families like hers work through their grief.

Over the years, she organized countless candlelight vigils and balloon releases for local homicide victims and offered prayer and comfort to the families left behind.

Some of those families were there on Sunday, standing by Williams' grave wearing T-shirts and face masks bearing her image. One mother remembered how Williams helped her and her husband find strength after their daughter was killed several years ago, and she thanked her for tirelessly supporting other families like hers.

"She took each one of us as mothers underneath her arms and let us know that everything was going to be all right," said the mother, who left before WFAE was able to confirm her identity. "Even when we didn't know it was going to be all right, she said everything was going to be all right."

Other attendees included many of Williams' children and grandchildren. One of her granddaughters, Marketa Floyd, said Williams had left behind a legacy of selflessness.

"I just want to tell Miss Judy job well done. At the end of the day, this is what matters: your legacy," Floyd said. "So just job well done, Miss Judy. She was one of the most selfless people I've ever known."

Also in attendance was William's first cousin, Glenda Harris, who sang one of Williams' favorite gospel songs, "Break Every Chain," and whose voice wavered as she reflected back on her cousin's life.

"I don't know what I ever did to deserve to have someone in my life like Judy," Harris said. "I thank God for the day that he put you on this earth to show us how we ought to do, how we ought to love, how we ought to be as a child of God."

Sunday's ceremony was organized by Williams' son, David Howard, who told reporters he was grateful to the roughly 40 people who attended the memorial.

"It says a lot to me that people remembered what she did for them, that she was there for them when they needed her, and now, in turn, they're here for her family while we're going through this," Howard said. "That means a lot."

At the end of the ceremony, attendees stood in a circle near Williams' grave and released purple and white balloons to remember and honor her life.

The newly installed marker on Williams' grave bore a quote she gave in an interview with WFAE in a 2019:

"I hope that people will remember that Miss Judy cared, that I would do whatever I can for you whenever I can do it, no matter what."

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