Lewis Williams was born on March 1, 1947 in Cadiz Ohio to Charles and Hazel Williams. He grew up in a poor rural community where his grandfather, Clyde Williams (a horseman himself), introduced him to the world of harness racing. Lew quit school at the age of 16 to pursue his dream. (Charles Williams, Lew's brother also had a successful racing career and they occasionally competed against one another in Ohio).
At the tender age of 19, Lew married my mother, Bonnie Blanchard, and some months later I (LaVonda) was born. My sister, LaDonna, followed 2 years later. During this time, my father raced and traveled and began to get noticed and receive acclaim. My parents divorced in the early 70's and my father then married Gretchen Orr and Christopher Lewis Williams was born in 1975. They moved to New Jersey in order to be near the Meadowlands Sports Complex where he did a lot of racing.
By this time, he was becoming a household name in the harness horse industry. He also became involved in drugs, a great temptation in the business. He was, however, able to continue an extraordinary career for years to come. He eventually divorced for the second time. After many years of continual drug use, it finally caught up with him. He would be suspended (very publicly) several times and was enrolled in drug rehabilitation as many times. He had a very hard time trying to kick the habit. I spent many years frustrated with my father unable to understand why he did this and I did not offer much compassion.
His third and last wife was Patti Lloyd. They would have 2 children together (Chelsea and Nicole). In 1989, my father enrolled in a rehab program that would finally be a success. He was on the verge of having his driving license renewed when the unthinkable would happen. On October 25, 1989 while working on a farm in southern New Jersey, doing some horse training and waiting for license renewal, he was helping a neighbor by tilling a field on a tractor when it overturned on him breaking his neck. Nicole would never get the chance to know her father, as he would die while she was still in the womb. Needless this was devastating to all who knew him.
It was after this that I would start to understand what drove him to drugs. Please understand that I do not justify drug use for any reason, but do believe that some are not strong enough to overcome horrible events that happen to them as children. This is what happened to Lewis Williams. Several family members told me of things that occurred that I had no idea about. My father and his siblings had many obstacles to overcome growing up and my father's therapist explained that his self-destructive behavior was a reflection of the pain and abuse he experienced as a child. This is as detailed as I wish to get on this subject.
It is almost 10 years later and the loss is still felt deeply in the family as well as the industry. My brother, Christopher is now in the business and was, in July, interviewed for Hoofbeats Magazine. It is good to see that the Williams name still generates interest. My father now has 4 grandchildren, Lewis II, Paige, Niaya, and Shae. He would be proud.
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