Ted Williams, 53, is a fire inspector and educator with the Maryville Fire Department. He has worked with the Maryville Fire Department almost six years. He was with the 134th Air Refueling, the 119th Air Control Squadron, then was with the 228th Combat Communications Squadron 10 years and just recently switched back to the 134th where he is the commander of the logistics readiness squadron.
He and his wife, Janice Tucker Williams, will celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary this year. Their daughter Vanessa, passed away in 1996. It was her death in a house fire near the University of Tennessee that eventually led Ted to the job he has now as a fire inspector and educator.
"Nobody, unless theyve been there, understands the loss of
a child," he says. "You go through a process of grieving. You
dont grieve for six months and go back to the way it was. Your life is changed forever. Your dreams have changed."
Ted Williams said his daughter had graduated college with a restaurant/management degree and was going back to school for another degree when she died. Someone had left a heater and radio on in a downstairs bathroom that caused the fire, which spread to her upstairs bedroom. She and a man in another bedroom died, and three others escaped.
He recalled a quote about people facing similar situations and
how they either laid down and died or pulled themselves up.
At about this time, he was reading a newspaper ad for a fire inspector/educator with the Maryville Fire Department.
Williams applied, went through a few interviews and got the job. He credits Chief Ed Mitchell for giving him the chance.
"It gave me a new reason to get up, and it gave me a new reason for living," Williams said.. "That may sound dramatic, but you have a challenge and something you feel you may be able to do (by) being able to talk to kids and being able to inspect homes. At least maybe I can make it where someone is not suffering loss because of a senseless fire. That drives me now."
Here is Ted Williams:
What was your most embarrassing moment?
"When I was in grade school we ate out at 411 Restaurant occasionally on Fridays. I loved milkshakes, and this particular evening, they made me an extra thick cherry shake. I turned it up and tapped on the bottom to get it started. Pow! It came out on my face all at once. The server thought it had exploded. My dad laughed until he cried."
Why did you pursue the career you chose?
Williams said he has "been blessed to have several careers." His 26 year career with the National Guard was driven by his belief that "freedom is everyones responsibility." His work as a microbiologist was because he loved science and his work with his father as a general contractor was a "great time together -- building everything from homes to schools and businesses." His current career as a fire inspector and educator comes from the loss of his daughter in a house fire. "I hope to help other parents avoid that event of being told their child died in a house fire."
What was your first paying job?
"Working as a gopher, nail driver, painter and wheelbarrow driver for my dad in his home building business. I was so proud when I earned enough to buy my own hammer. I still have it."
What is one word others often use to describe you and
"Quiet. I dont say a lot unless I have something I feel is important to say."
When you were 5 years old, what did you want to be when you grew
"Cowboy. My grandmother wanted me to be a preacher, so I told her Id be a cowboy preacher."
Whats the best thing about Blount County?
"Our people. Blount County citizens will help anyone in need, no questions asked. I also love the mountains and streams."
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it
"Be witty. I wish I had the wit to be quick on my feet in any situation."
What is your passion?
"To learn something new each day and seek to improve the safety of our children through fire safety education."
To what do you attribute your success?
Williams said he attributes his success to good friends, loving and supportive family and great coworkers.
With whom, living or dead, would you most like to have a long lunch?
"My daughter Vanessa. She was my hero. Her spirit rides with me daily in my job."
What do you hate?
"Laziness. Everyone can contribute in some way."
Whats your favorite quote?
"Never compare yourself to others, lest you become vain and bitter; for you will always find those greater and lesser than yourself."
What do you do to relax or for fun?
"Fly-fishing. It doesnt matter about the catching, just standing in a pool of water and enjoying the stream and mountains. Its my sanctuary and stress reliever."
What is your dream vacation?
"Fly fishing in New Zealand or a trip to Majorca, Spain, with my wife. They believe in Island Time -- things will get done eventually, just dont get in a hurry."
Rebels, Tornadoes, Mountaineers or Governors?
"Governors. They are usually the underdog, and yet they still find a way to win."
What is your all-time favorite movie?
"Animal House. I liked Flounder. He had a cool car and wanted to be crazy but was just too conservative to cut loose. In the end he finally came in to his own and had a blast."
If you won a big lottery jackpot, what is the charitable donation
you would make and how would you splurge?
Williams would fund smoke detector programs throughout Blount County and then he would buy his wife a BMW.
Coke or Pepsi?
Williams enjoys Dr Pepper, "especially over Mayfields chocolate ice cream."
If you were King for a Day, what edict would you immediately pass?
"You must spend at least one day per week with your family outdoors with no phones, electronics or DVDs."
What is the best advice your mother ever gave you?
"Dont let someone else determine how you act."