Beth Williams, CEO of Manufacturing, “one of our brightest lights in the Black community,” dies at the age of 57
“A lot of people talk about remembering where you came from,” said former governor Deval Patrick. “She lived it.”
Ms. Williams, who survived a brain aneurysm a few years ago, was 57 years old when she died at her Hyde Park home where her son found her on Wednesday. A cause of death has not yet been determined.
“We have lost one of our brightest lights in the black community and business,” said her friend Colette Phillips, president and CEO of Colette Phillips Communications. âShe was a role model, a mentor. Many young aspiring women, especially women of color, looked up at her and said, “If she can do it, I can do it.” “
Lisa Guscott, president and chief executive officer of Long Bay Management, called Ms. Williams âan incredible womanâ who worked to help those in the community who were not helped by others.
âWe talked twice a day. Our paths were similar in that we ended up running our fathers’ business, âsaid Guscott, who runs the company her father, Kenneth Guscott co-founded. âOur fathers were very much in the community and eager to give back. She always wanted to carry on her father’s legacy. She was such a giving person. “
And Ms. Williams told Inc. Magazine in 2006, “That’s what I wanted to make my father’s dream come true, his legacy.”
Roxbury Technology manufactures and sells remanufactured toner cartridges for laser printers, fax machines and copiers.
Executives and friends noted that Ms. Williams was a business manager, both for hiring marginalized workers, such as ex-prisoners of violent crime, and for leading her business into the green economy.
âShe was inclusion before there was inclusion,â said Joan Harrington, a retired career connections facilitator at Boston Public Schools who praised her lifelong friend for âmaking sure that black men who went to jail got a second chance got. She was the daughter of her father and mother. It was about justice and service. “
Evelyn Murphy, the first woman to serve as lieutenant governor of the state and the first woman to be elected to state office, said Ms. Williams’ passion was greater than just her business and she contributed to the well-being and wealth of the Roxbury parish Paths that went far beyond their business. “
Ms. Williams, she added, “was a generous, giving woman who gave more of herself than I believe people thought.”
Phillips said what she loved most about Beth was her heart. She had this combination of what Nelson Mandela called terrible. He said that when you have a good head and a good heart, you are an impressive person. She was a phenomenal woman. “
Elizabeth Ann Williams was born on August 10, 1963 in Boston and grew up in Roxbury.
Her mother, Norma Bartos Williams, was a charitable nurse. Her father Archie Williams was a civil rights attorney and entrepreneur.
To stimulate economic growth in Roxbury, he founded Freedom Industries, which grew into Freedom Foods grocery stores and an advertising company along with tool and die, electronics and engineering companies.
Ms. Williams graduated from Beaver Country Day School and her father’s alma mater, Brown University.
“She was funny, she was beautiful, she loved her family,” said her older sister, Donna Williams of Roslindale. “Her most outstanding qualities were her kindness, her determination.”
Harrington, who befriended Donna as a young child, said, “Beth was the kind of person who was always on the lookout for someone, even as a toddler.”
Ms. Williams was particularly close to her younger brother David, an honorary student who was murdered at the age of 22 while playing the role of peacemaker who tried to end a fight at a Cambridge party in 1986.
“We lost our brother to a murder,” said Donna tearfully.
Donna said she spent the night at her sister’s house on the Friday before Ms. Williams passed away. âWhen she dropped me home on Saturday afternoon, I said, ‘I love you,’ and she said, ‘I love you forever.’ “
Ms. Williams, whose marriage was divorced, “admired her son,” said Donna.
âMy mother was special. She was my greatest heroine, âsaid Kameron Nobles on Saturday about his mother, who couldn’t talk about her without crying. âPeople always say, ‘Who do you want to be when you grow up?’ It was my mother. “
“I lost the only person who was always behind me,” he added. “I would trade every single thing to get them back.”
After graduating from Brown, Ms. Williams worked as a production control manager at Freedom Electronics, owned by her father, and then joined Raytheon’s missile systems division, where she was promoted to minority liaison officer.
She then worked on the procurement team for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts before being named Director of Business Diversity.
On Thanksgiving morning in 2002, Ms. Williams found her father dead of a heart attack. Having a good job, she struggled with the acquisition of Roxbury Technology, which he founded in 1994.
One Sunday in church, she heard a sermon entitled âCourage When the Call Comesâ.
“It changed my mind and challenged my will,” she told the Bay State Banner in 2010.
The Initiative for a Competitive Inner City and Inc. Magazine named Roxbury Technology and Ms. Williams as a leader in minority and women owned companies in 2008.
In a 2015 interview with the Globe, she spoke about how she survived a brain aneurysm the previous year and said doctors found an inoperable tumor that they could shrink.
“After that,” said Ms. Williams, “I said that God has me here for a reason.”
Plans for a memorial service are ongoing for Ms. Williams, whose son and sister are their only immediate survivors. Ms. Williams was also a beloved aunt and a role model for her niece Christina Soares, Donna said.
“Beth was a Titan,” said her sister.
She was also âthe most humble person you have ever met. She had the biggest, funniest and loudest laugh you have ever heard. And it was authentic, âsaid Harrington. “Beth thought more of others than of herself. She never thought it was a big deal.”
Mrs. Williams, said Guscott, âwas just a phenomenal woman. I know that God has been waiting for you with open arms. She was the best of the best that God has given this earth. I really really think so. “
Bryan Marquard can be reached at [email protected]