Published 3:02 pm Thursday, December 12, 2019
Rex Williams, 81, of Smithfield passed away peacefully at his residence on Dec. 9, 2019. He was the son of the late Edens Elijah Williams and Willie Mabel Johnson Williams of Texas. Rex is survived by his wife of 52 years, Joyce Arlene Knowles Williams; sons, Todd (Lori) and Jay (Kristen); grandchildren, Ashley, Lindsey, Andrew, Jacob and Kylie.
Rex was born and raised on a small peanut farm in Stephenville, Texas. He spent his youth helping his family tend to the farm, waking at the crack of dawn to milk the cows and gather the eggs from the hens before walking four miles to school.
Following high school, Rex obtained his undergraduate degree in English from McMurry College in Abilene, Texas. He worked his way through school to pay for college, including spending two summers in Alaska, building cabins for the forestry service. After college, he began his naval career attending Officer Candidate School in Pensacola, Fla. He proudly served eight years in the Navy as an intelligence officer for an A6 Squadron at U. S. Naval Station Oceana. The Navy paid for his Master’s degree in computer science at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. While in D.C., he met and married Joyce.
After the Navy, Rex spent most of his professional career working for the Department of Energy. He held numerous positions at the DOE in the nuclear sector, including the financing of nuclear reactors for civilian energy production and space exploration. He was extremely proud of his contributions to the nuclear reactor powering the Galileo satellite, the first spacecraft to orbit Jupiter.
In retirement, Rex and Joyce moved from northern Virginia to Smithfield, where he was actively involved in many community activities, including The Writers’ Club, the Gridiron Smithfield Book Club and the South of the James Golfers Club. Rex was an avid proponent of childhood education. His thirst for knowledge was never ending. One of his passions was robotics. He spearheaded the development of a STEM Robotics Program in the Isle of Wight Public School system and was on the School Advisory Committee.
During his lifetime, Rex enjoyed golf, tennis, reading and spending time with family and friends. He would strike up an interesting conversation with anyone and made everyone he met feel welcome. He spent many years coaching his two sons in various sports. One of the greatest highlights of his retirement was being actively involved in his grandchildren’s lives and activities. Rex was a devoted family man, a true friend, and was constantly driven to make things better for others. His presence will be truly missed by all who knew him.
A memorial service will be held on Saturday, Dec. 14, 2 p.m. at Little’s Funeral Home in Smithfield. The family will receive friends following the service at the funeral home. Interment will follow at a later date in Albert G. Horton Veterans’ Cemetery.
Online condolences may be registered at www.littlesfuneralhome.