Idlewild Historic and Cultural Center dedicated to Mabel R. Williams

IDLEWILD — After Mabel R. Williams’ continuous work to make her vision of the Idlewild Historic and Cultural Center a reality, it was only fitting its conference center be dedicated and named in her honor.

On Saturday, friends, family and admirers gathered for the dedication ceremony and to remember the influential community member and civil rights activist who passed away on April 19, 2014, at the age of 82.

FiveCAP Executive Director Mary Trucks worked with Williams, who was a member on the FiveCAP, Inc. Board of Directors, toward establishing the Idlewild Historic and Cultural Center.

“Something that was so very important to her came to fruition and it’s only fitting that part of it be dedicated to her

because of her tireless work,” Trucks said.

Williams made her home in Idlewild after living for years in Cuba and China with her husband, Robert F. Williams, and their two sons. The family fled their home in Monroe, N.C., in 1961, after their work pioneering the civil rights movement in the south during the 1950s and ‘60s landed Robert on the FBI’s Most Wanted list.

As she made her home in Lake County, Williams became involved in the community, serving as an active member of MSU Extension and St. Ann’s Catholic Church, where she was project director for the St. Ann’s Lake County Senior Meals program for many years, sat on the church’s finance board, served as Lector and Minister of the Eucharist and was a former 10-year member of the Lake County Community Foundation.

Father Ray Bruck fondly remembers the contributions Williams made in her roles at St. Ann’s Catholic Church.

She had an incredible impact on people, Bruck said.

“After she worked on the meals program, it became packed every day,” he said. “We took awards for being one of the best senior meal programs in the state. It was a privilege to know her and her husband, Robert.”

The dedication ceremony featured a showing of the film “Negroes with Guns,” which chronicled the history of Robert and Mabel Williams and their struggle in their quest for social justice. After the film, the center was dedicated and a ribbon cut.

Williams’ son, John C. Williams, is honored to have the conference center named after his mother.

She was a very personable person, who dedicated her life to serving others, he said.

“My mother was concerned about people wherever she would go,” John said. “She made it her mission to help others, especially those in need and neglected.”