Keith A. Williams

[ Age 47 ] Former WMAR-TV news editor was an avid sports and music fan who overcame limitations of being paraplegic.

December 05, 2007|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,Sun reporter

Keith Allen Williams, a former WMAR-TV news editor who was an avid sports and rock music fan, died of lymphoma Friday at Johns Hopkins Hospital. The Joppa resident was 47.

Mr. Williams was born in Chicago and moved with his family to Joppa in 1960. He was a 1978 graduate of Joppatowne High School and remained an active member of the school's reunion committee for years.

In 1984, Mr. Williams was in a serious automobile accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down.

After recovering, he attended Harford County Community College, where he earned an associate's degree in communications in 1986.

"Being a paraplegic didn't let him stop doing what he wanted to do. He always said he did what he wanted and did the same things as everybody else, except he did them in a different way," said his mother, Teresa Williams of Joppa.

He enjoyed attending Super Bowl games, the U.S. Open and rock concerts.

"He sat in the front rows at every major concert from New York to Washington. He never missed a Springsteen concert until the most recent one when he had to give his tickets to his brother because of illness," said Jamie Costello, a WMAR reporter and longtime friend.

"Keith was such an inspiration to us. We'd look at him sitting in his wheelchair and think of his limitations, but he never saw them. He was absolutely free of any self-pity and was always on the go," said Mr. Costello.

Mr. Costello said he was so touched by the way that Mr. Williams approached life that he asked him to be his son's godfather.

"He was a real special guy," said WMAR sportscaster Scott Garceau. "The most impressive thing about him was that he never grumbled about his situation. He never saw himself as in any way handicapped. He drove himself everywhere and did what he wanted."

"He had three great passions in life, any one of which we shared. He loved the Chicago Bears and the Bulls and the rock group KISS, and collected all sorts of memorabilia related to the group," Mr. Garceau said.

"His father brainwashed him about the Bears," Mrs. Williams said, laughing. "Whenever they were playing, you were not allowed to talk after entering the room."

"He certainly had lots of obstacles in his life, but the great thing about Keith was that you never heard about his struggles behind the scenes. He never shined a negative light on his situation," said Joe Hammann, former WMAR sports producer who is now a pharmaceutical salesman.

"Every year he entered an NFL Super Bowl lottery for the physically challenged, and he won two tickets to Super Bowl XXXV, when the Ravens beat the Giants. He asked me to go and off we went to Tampa," Mr. Hammann said. "It was on that trip when we shared the same hotel room that I saw what life was really like for him."

In regard to Mr. Williams' newsroom work, Mr. Hammann praised his efficiency.

"He was wonderful to work with and was great under pressure. He knew how to handle pressure," Mr. Hammann said. "Our camaraderie in the newsroom led to the tight friendship that we had. He was a true friend, and you don't find many friends like Keith in life."

Mr. Williams left WMAR in 2005 and at his death was doing freelance work for WRC-TV in Washington and the Fox Network.

"As a news editor, he cut and pasted tape and made sense of your piece. He could always take your story and make it better and really sing," Mr. Costello said.

"For the most part, he worked overnight," recalled George Ward, a retired WMAR news photographer. "He was an excellent editor who had the respect of all of those he worked with."

"During the last two weeks before his death, Keith received personal phone calls from Joe Montana and Earl Weaver," Mr. Costello said.

Mr. Williams was a communicant of Holy Spirit Roman Catholic Church, 540 Joppa Farm Road, Joppa, where a memorial Mass will be offered at 11 a.m. Saturday.

Also surviving are his father, Keith Albert Williams; a brother, Kevin R. Williams of Annapolis; and his girlfriend, Donna M. Mayse of Elkton.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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