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A man who had time for everyone – Jack Williams loved God, faith, family and serving others

Jack Williams: Jack volunteered for war service in the RAAF enlisting on September 7, 1943, at 18 years of age and, because of his clear speaking voice, he was trained in cypher and radio telephony.

FORMER well-known Ingham identity, solicitor, barrister and former shire chairman John Joseph “Jack” Williams (pictured) died on May 6 at 93 years of age in Townsville General Hospital.

Jack’s Requiem Mass was held at St Patrick’s Church in Ingham on May 15.

Jack was born the third child of William Francis Williams and Adelaide Penelope Williams (nee Kingsbury) in Townsville on May 15, 1925.

He began primary education at St Mary’s convent school of the Sisters of Mercy, West End, located next to the present-day historical Catholic church where he received his early sacraments and where on November 8, 2014, he and Mary Josephine Connor (nee Snee) celebrated their wedding.

As youngsters, Jack and his older brother Bill spent the school holidays with his godmother, their Aunt Frances, his mother’s sister and the wife of David Coughlan, and his brother Godfrey at Stone River, via Ingham. 

It was there that the boys learnt their horsemanship from Frank Jorgensen, the Coughlans’ business partner. At home in West End, Jack and Bill would help by cleaning out the stable of Silent Frisco, their dad’s racehorse. 

And from there, Jack would sometimes climb Castle Hill with two onions to roast and a bottle of water in his pockets until he would reach the top, and, he said, marvel at the magnificent sight before him. 

When still quite young, Jack was already learning his faith and his love of God. He remembered as a child telling God that he loved Him very much, but, that he loved his mother more.

At about 13 years of age, Jack played the guitar and sang with Betty Nolan on steel guitar over radio station 4TO for three years. 

They had a fan club and sang “requests”.

Jack’s further education was at Our Lady’s Mount, the school conducted by the Christian Brothers on Melton Hill. 

His Junior Public Pass in 1941 was graded 3A’s, 5B’s, 1C which included 100 per cent in arithmetic. 

On February 11, 1942, Jack began employment at the Ingham Court House.

He volunteered in the local fire brigade and was trombone player in the Ingham Municipal Band. Later in the 1940s he became president of that organisation.

Jack volunteered for war service in the RAAF enlisting on September 7, 1943, at 18 years of age and, because of his clear speaking voice, he was trained in cypher and radio telephony. 

Jack holds five war service award medals including the 39-45 Star, and the Pacific Star for his overseas service on Bougainville, Buka, Nissan and Biak. 

At that time, the islands to the north of Australia were heavily occupied by the invading Japanese troops.

When peace was declared, Jack was invited by his commanding officer to join the occupation forces in Japan. 

Without the assistance of modern communications, Jack chose to return to Australia to his recently widowed mother and two younger sisters in Townsville. 

Jack was discharged from the RAAF on April 15, 1946, just one month before his 21st birthday. He had been at war for more than two-and-a-half years but wasn’t permitted to legally enter a public bar or to vote.

After the Second World War, servicemen were offered the chance to take up their former positions in Australia.

Jack returned to the court house in Ingham as depositions clerk and from there on March 7, 1947, he became the youngest Justice of the Peace recorded at that time in Queensland.

Jack was swept off his feet by the beautiful Joy Reitano and they married on November 5, 1949. 

Their three sons and two daughters John, David, Peter, Anne and Kathleen were born during the 1950s and 1960s.

After years of serious study Jack was admitted in Brisbane to practise as a solicitor on August 17, 1954. And, after 43 years of constant and often complex work in Ingham, especially regarding the sugar industry, Jack sold his records to Guides & Elliott and handed the practice to them during December, 1997.

But retirement in Townsville did not agree with Jack and he was called to the Bar as a barrister on May 5, 1998, and he continued to work in the Townsville and North Queensland district until after his beloved wife Joy’s death in December, 2002.

Jack devoted a lifetime of service to so many organisations.

He joined the RSL during May, 1946, as a member. About 1960, Jack was invited to the Proserpine district conference where he spoke to the members for his first time. He attended state congress meetings all over Queensland. 

About 1970 Jack was president of the sub-branch in Ingham and attended every district conference. 

He was voted North Queensland district president in 1979 for a two-year period and visited every sub-branch during this time.

For his achievements Jack received the honour of life vice-president of North Queensland district of the RSL, together with life membership of the Herbert River RSL. He was their honorary solicitor for about 30 years.

Perhaps his greatest honour was when he was asked to become patron of the Gallipoli Legion of Anzacs after Brigadeer North’s death. 

Jack attended the funerals of the remaining 40 Anzacs who had survived from that period, with the exception of one “Digger” Hughie Doherty.

It was impossible as Jack was in a criminal trial elsewhere.

Jack was secretary of the Ingham Branch of the North Queensland Society of the Crippled Children from 1954-1965.

He was honorary solicitor for St Patrick’s Parish, Ingham, and Bishop Leonard Faulkner appointed him to the trust committee of the Townsville diocese. 

He was honorary solicitor for the Canossian Sisters in Ingham.

He was a Hinchinbrook councillor from about 1970 and shire chairman from 1985-1988.

Jack was an active member of the Democratic Labor Party with Vince Gair in the 1950s and 1960s. He was No. 2 to Vince Gair in the Senate elections, candidate in the several state elections, and led the DLP in the 1974 Queensland State election.

He became a Lions Club member at the end of 1961. 

Thirteen years later he retired after travelling all over Australia. 

He was Cabinet Secretary for the district supervising Townsville, Ingham, Charters Towers and Tully. He was president, patron and honorary solicitor for many years to the Noorla Bowls Club, Ingham.

In 1970, the Archbishop of Canterbury appointed Jack to the position of Notary Public so that his word is accepted as truth throughout the world.

Jack was installed as a Knight of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem on March 24, 1999. He was president of the Australian Family Association from 2003-2010.

Jack had time for everyone. 

His office staff members were heard to say that he was the best boss anyone could have.

One time when he looked up from his desk, he found his staff standing around his desk with the office manager respectfully saying that he had to learn to say “No” sometimes. 

They were not only staff but like family to Joy and Jack. He was proud of the quality of his employees and they were pleased to be called “Williams” staff.

But returning to the beginning when Jack prayed a child’s prayer that he loved God but he loved his mother more, he most certainly must have had a great love for his mother because Jack attended daily Mass for the greater part of his adult life. 

He prayed the daily Rosary with his own composed meditations and offered a multitude of prayers for his family and friends living and deceased. He loved his family deeply.

You may see for one last time, the wake from Jack’s vessel, “Cristiana” making its way through the Hinchinbrook Passage, or his light plane dip its wings over Lucinda as Jack’s ever generous spirit is on its way to his new life, his everlasting life.

This (and not his) is by no means a complete story of Jack’s life and works. 

Jack is survived by his second wife, Mary, his children, John, David, Peter and Anne, his 10 grandchildren, his four great-grandchildren, and his two sisters Esme and Patty. 

His wife of 53 years, Joy, died in 2002, his younger daughter Kathleen died in 2012, eldest sister Betty died in 2017 at 98 years of age and his older brother Bill died in 1993.

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