by Contributed content August 24, 2022
Menlo Park resident Robert Beresford Williams, born June 23, 1921, died August 17, 2022, having reached the age of 101.
Bob left a legacy for his family, friends and the nation. He was a creative thinker, with tireless energy and unparalleled enthusiasm. He had a stubborn determination to make a difference in any project he took on. He was caring, generous and loyal to his many friends.
Always optimistic and happy, Bob was a perfect gentleman in every way. He was an extreme optimist. As an avid golfer, he “knew” that his “best round of golf” was right out front. Often a mentor, always an example, Bob expected the best from everyone. His passions were his sweetheart, Carol, whom he called “The Madam”, his family, the ocean, hiking, writing, the navy and Stanford sports, but especially his friends.
Bob loved people and they loved him back. He never forgot a name. Countless people credit Bob as their mentor and inspiration. Her quick smile, infectious laugh, and strong values of honesty, loyalty, and generosity were embodied in someone who saw the best in people, no matter where they came from.
One of his greatest pleasures was talking to kindergarten children at the local elementary school about how to live a long and meaningful life. They loved it when ‘Mr. Williams’ visited their school and Bob beamed with happiness when he realized he was able to help them understand the importance of gratitude, love of country and other practices he encouraged them to adopt. Of all his many accomplishments in life, he felt that this experience with these young people had the most profound impact on him because it helped shape their very future.
He grew up in Sausalito where he was a proud Eagle Scout and American swimming record holder. He graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1944. While a midshipman, he had a rare “double” – holding the highest rank of brigade commander and the highest elective office of class president every year. A dual-sport varsity athlete, he was awarded the coveted Class of 1897 Leadership Sword.
During World War II, Bob served four campaigns as a ship’s officer in the Western Pacific. After the war, he became a Navy aircraft carrier pilot. In 1953, he resigned from the Navy and entered the life insurance industry, becoming one of the most respected and high-profile international life insurance executives of his day.
As president of his life insurance trade association, the American Society of Chartered Life Underwriters, Bob is remembered for strengthening the industry’s professional code of ethics.
An innovative leader, two of Bob’s initiatives, Enhanced Sportsmanship and Honoring of Veterans have become successful national programs. Thanks to Bob’s efforts, nearly 600 middle schools and 1,000 high schools now honor veterans at the home football games closest to Veterans Day.
Locally, Bob, an alumnus of Stanford’s graduate school, received Stanford’s first-ever Sportsmanship Award. Nationally, the Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) has honored Bob as a “visionary of sportsmanship.” And internationally, a sports council in Scotland has named its boys’ tournament “The Bob Williams Trophy” for inspiring young boys to honor the game.
Bob loved the Boy Scouts and was very proud to have been the recipient of the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award, the Eagle Scout Association’s highest honor.
Bob made many innovative contributions to the Naval Academy. He was a trustee of the USNA Foundation for over 40 years and many of his ideas have been accepted by the Academy. Additionally, he purchased a Moon Rock from NASA for the USNA Museum. Bob served on the crew at the Academy and was deeply moved last year when the Navy named a rowing shell after him. With water from the River Severn, he christened the 1945 Robert Beresford Williams class shell with tears streaming down his cheeks.
All of Bob’s family and friends thank him for everything he has done to enrich their lives. Those mourning his passing include:
Carol Mayer Marshall, his “sweetheart” and his wife; his daughters Cara Taylor (Paul) and Betsey Williams; his grandsons Donald Taylor (Nancy) and Steve Taylor; his great-granddaughters Emma and Abby Taylor; his daughter-in-law Parri Marshall (David); his step-granddaughters Ariel Waldman (Matt Biddulph) and Zahra Waldman; his nephews Ken Williams (Kathy), Michael Williams (Mimi), Steve Williams (Stephanie), Robert Beresford Williams (Mary Beth), his cousins Cinda Ely and Karen Sivley (John) and his dear friends: his Scottish family, the Syme, Jose Alvarez, Maggie Wilde, Dr. Jeff Croke, Judy Tuipalotu and Tim Larson.
A memorial service is planned for a later date.