George L. Williams taught generations of Port Washington children, then devoted himself in retirement to preserving the landmarks and documenting the history of his North Shore neighborhood.
The longtime teacher, local historian and tireless intellect died of natural causes in his home there on July 15. He was 87.
“I hope that people remember him as a contributing member of society,” said his daughter Adelia Lubitz, of Ridgefield, Connecticut. “He was not a materialistic person. He saw value in ideas and not things.”
While Williams served as an adjunct professor at Adelphi, Hofstra and other universities, his primary occupation was teaching seventh, eighth and ninth grades at Port Washington’s Weber Junior High School, now called Carrie Palmer Weber Middle School. He worked there for 37 years.
Bob Bracken, a fellow teacher at the school, said Williams instilled in his students an appreciation for the craft of writing.
“George convinced them they had something to say,” said Bracken, of Port Washington.
Williams was born in New York City in June 1931, the eldest of four children, Lubitz said. His father was a NYPD officer, and his mother a homemaker. When Williams was a teenager, the family moved to upstate Tupper Lake, where he excelled as a student in and out of the classroom.
“He was very studious,” said Lubitz, who recalled that one of her father’s childhood hobbies was tracing the genealogy of royal European families.
Williams received a bachelor’s degree in 1953 and a master’s in 1955 from Queens College, then a PhD in education from New York University in 1966.
Williams met Adelia Musa, whom he would marry in 1958, in an Italian language class for district faculty. Musa, of Milan, Italy, was the teacher.
“He was not a very good student,” Lubitz said of her father in that class. “He kept mispronouncing the word for 'wife' in Italian, of all words.”
Williams later became proficient in the language. The couple had three daughters. Musa, who took Williams' name, died in 2011.
Williams retired from teaching in 1990 and went on to become active in historical preservation, joining efforts to restore notable structures and cemeteries, leading a campaign to erect a monument to local laborers and publishing works on Port Washington’s history and other subjects. The Dodge Homestead in Port Washington and Roslyn's clock tower are among the structures he sought to restore.
Chris Bain, president of the Cow Neck Peninsula Historical Society, a position Williams previously held, said his predecessor’s local walking guides sparked his own interest in the area’s past. Williams also served as chairman of the Town of North Hempstead’s Historic Landmark Preservation Commission.
“He left behind a legacy that people will be referring to for the rest of time,” said Bain, of Garden City.
Williams is survived by his siblings, Alfred Williams of Massapequa, Joseph Williams of Levittown and Kathryn Fay of Levittown; his daughters, Lubitz, Marina Delaney of upstate Trumansburg and Gilda Ruggi of London; and six grandchildren.
His wake was July 20 at Austin F. Knowles Funeral Home in Port Washington. Burial was at Nassau Knolls Cemetery in Port Washington.