Obituary of Voncille Williams
Voncille Williams, née Cadenhead
Marjorie Voncille Cadenhead was born in Brownwood, Texas on January 24th, 1938, to Margaret, a nurse, and Leo, a carpenter and math teacher. They then moved to Alamogordo, New Mexico, where her three siblings were born and they all grew up. Her life ended on Friday morning, January 14th, 2022, ten days short of her 84th birthday, after a half-year battle with brain cancer. Her beloved husband of two decades, John Williams, preceded her by nine months. She raised three sons, Mark Streetman, Jonathan Driver, and Joel Driver, and is also survived by her younger sisters, Donna Beth Garrett and Sharon Kay Bade, and her younger brother Donald Ray Cadenhead. Finally, she is remembered by many friends and colleagues who experienced different facets of the jewel of her life.
Voncille was voted Most Likely to Succeed three years in high school, and then did. She received Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in music from North Texas State College (now the University of North Texas), and taught music at all possible levels—elementary, middle school, high school, and university.
You can’t think of Voncille without thinking of music. She had rare musical gifts. When she was a little girl, she thought everyone could listen to a train whistle and name its component musical notes because she could. She knew when a violin or a voice was flat or sharp because it just didn’t sound right to her. And she could sightread even difficult music with uncanny ease. She started her first paying church organist job as a young teenager, and blessed many churches, theaters, weddings, and concerts with her piano and organ skills for the next 70 years. She added the viola to her list of instruments; since she didn’t do anything by half-measures, she learned it well enough to play professionally in several orchestras and in recording studios for commercials and movie scores. Later in life, she went beyond her classical training and added jazz and ragtime to the ways music gave joy to her and others; finally, she learned to play the banjo because, well, why not?
The movie of her sons’ growing-up years had a musical background score. Whether she was rehearsing for a performance, teaching one of her many piano students, or just playing for the joy of it, they never knew when music would rock
the house. When much later in life she married another great pianist, John Williams, the level of musical joy filling their home only multiplied as one or the other of them was always making the Steinway sing.
She taught by example that love is not transactional; you do it whether the recipient returns it or not, is deserving or not. You just love, wholly and unreservedly. That’s how she loved, and that’s how she lived. She leaned-in to life and kept it constantly in motion around her with her unending, larger-than-life energy. That love and energy will be sorely missed by her family and by all who knew her.
Voncille loved to travel; when her sons lived in Germany and Turkey, she visited them as often as she could. Years before, when her first husband offered her a choice between a diamond ring or 3 months in Europe, she chose Europe. Because of that trip, she has the singular distinction of having been present as the Berlin Wall was being built in the darkest days of the Cold War and then being present 30 years later as the Wall was being torn down.
Several causes benefitted from her passionate energy: freeing innocent people from prison, helping homeless people, and abolishing the death penalty in South Carolina.
Her family requests that in lieu of flowers, any donations of time or money be devoted to these causes, or to the John Williams Scholarship Fund created in her husband’s name.
A service will be held to celebrate her life at Kathwood Baptist Church in Columbia, SC on a yet-unchosen date in February.
Donations: Innocence Project: https://innocenceproject.org/donate/
Death Penalty: deathpenaltyaction.org
John Williams Scholarship Fund
University of South Carolina
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