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Obituaries » Roger G. Williams

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August 21, 1941 - July 30, 2023

A memorial service will be held at Kalamazoo First United Methodist Church, 212 S Park St. Kalamazoo, MI 49007, on Tuesday, August 8, at 2:00 pm, with visitation beginning at 1:00 pm.  Memorial gifts may be made to First United Methodist Church.

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Roger passed away on July 30, 2023, at his home in Kalamazoo. He was born August 21, 1941, in Ainsworth, Nebraska, to Glen and LaVonne (Roberts) Williams.  He grew up on a ranch in rural Nebraska, where his engagement with the natural environment began.  His summers spent in the pastures and hay fields fed his love of nature, but also his determination to pursue a career that did not include cutting and stacking hay. His undergraduate studies at the University of Nebraska concentrated in the sciences, leading to graduate studies at University of California, Berkeley, where he earned a PhD in chemistry.  There, he met and married his wife of 57 years, Molly (Wells). His entire professional career was at The Upjohn Company (later Pharmacia), where he was an analytical chemist, developing assays for chemical manufacturing, and troubleshooting accidents and processes that went awry.  He was a recipient of the Upjohn Award. His appreciation for the natural environment never waned – from his very early days of entertaining himself with a dishpan of tadpoles while his parents worked in the hayfields, to later exploration of nature around the globe, especially in the six acres of home outside Kalamazoo with its small pond teeming with interesting wildlife. His main interest was astronomy, which he could pursue in earnest once he retired from his day job.  He was an early adopter of digital astrophotography, acquiring pictures of ever dimmer, more challenging fuzzy objects such as star clusters and nebulae.  When the 2017 solar eclipse occurred on his 76th birthday, the whole family gathered to experience totality as its path crossed western Nebraska. Another long-time pursuit was English and early American dance.  There were annual trips to St. Croix for tropical dance weeks during the winter and to Kentucky for a summer week of traditional music and dance.  Roger had an extensive library of English dance music from which he taught and called English dance. As a member of Kalamazoo First United Methodist Church, he preferred inconspicuous roles – stocking groceries in the food pantry, building ramps for wheelchair access, setting up segments of a performance stage.  He cared for 2-year-olds in the toddler nursery, finding them interesting and engaging companions, often more so than grown-ups. He is predeceased by his parents, and sister Connie Anderson.  Surviving are his wife Molly; sister Darlene Nissen; son Michael (Tonya DeYoung) Williams; daughter Rebecca (Fritz) Kaegi; grandchildren Hannah Yowler, Matthew DeYoung; William, Jamie, and Anna Kaegi.