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"Dare to Struggle Dare to Win"
The life of “Uncle Chet, Travelin Man” or “Baseball man” as family lovingly called him could not be contained in this obituary. His was one full of traveling experiences nationally and internationally. His adventures encountered meeting many prestigious individuals. There was always an exchange of learning, laughter, encouragement, and service with every person he met. He leaves a legacy that embodies a love for all mankind that knew no boundaries when it came to kindness, support, and goodwill.
On June 23, 1947, Chester Arthur Williams, Jr. was born to Chester Sr. and Helen Culp Williams in Somerville, New Jersey. The family lived in Manville, Somerville, Plainfield, and Somerset prior to permanently settling in Bridgewater Township’s Hobbstown in1953. So close was he to his first cousins who also lived in Hobbstown, he was named “their fifth brother.” Chet attended the Bridgewater Public School System, becoming a star football player while attending Bridgewater Raritan High School. He opted to relocate to Plainfield with his dad, graduating from Plainfield High School in 1965. After graduation, he secured employment with the Somerville Post Office.
After leaving his post office job Chet became involved in community service, joining the community action organization, Somerville Youth Development Project (SYDP) founded by Ted Taylor, Chet’s cousins, Nearo Williams Jr. and Frank Simpson, along with neighborhood friend William Garland. The Somerville Youth Development Project became the community arm of the earlier founded organization, the Somerville Community Action Program (SCAP). SCAP empowered local teens with a political voice. Chet’s time with SCAP ended in 1967 upon his relocation to Chicago in 1967.
In 1970, Chet returned to New Jersey and continued his community action work, becoming the first director of the Martin Luther King Youth Center (MLKYC) in Hobbstown. The MLKYC was a community recreation center which offered after school tutoring along with recreational activities. It was a safe haven for the youth of Hobbstown and Somerville where they learned various life skills, engaged in recreational activities, while being exposed to areas outside of their communities. In 1975, he met Carol Edness and was memorized by her smile. They were together until she died and out of this union his son Gibran was born.
In 1971, “The Travelin Man” was once again on a move to Miami, FL where he began work at the DuPont Plaza Hotel as a waiter. He met a woman at Dupont who appreciated his service and invited him to work at the Fountain Blue Hotel (one of the top hotels in Miami) as a side cook. The manager noticed Chet’s talent in cooking. While in Miami, he attended the University of Miami and majored in film from 1972-1974. However, when his mother became ill, he returned to New Jersey to care for her until her death.
If Chet had to capture his top three passions during his life (outside of spending time with family and friends) they are - baseball, traveling and cooking. Each one being a display of his love language to the world.
During his time in Miami, while working as a side cook at the Fountain Blue Hotel, his passion for cooking was born. He was the first African American to work at the hotel and was known for his impeccable service to the patrons. The manager noticed as Chet cooked, he had an eye for food and was gifted in blending flavors together without having formal training. Throughout Chet’s travels, he made sure he experienced eating food in local restaurants. These tasting sessions expanded his palate, creating his unique style of cooking. In addition, Chet could tell you the history of an ingredient or spice and how the people of the country used it to flavor the food. His recipes didn’t have measurements, but they were filled with a couple of cups of love, a half cup of joy and a teaspoon of history.
In Chet’s words. “Traveling showed me the world and all of its beauty outside of my neighborhood. I was able to learn about different cultures including the people, food, customs and languages. It opened my mind to different perspectives beyond America, helping me to become more objective.” Chet was able to travel to 4 out of the 7 continents - North America, South America, Africa, Asia and Europe. He was able to visit over 15 countries and close to all of the 50 states. He enjoyed traveling to the islands the most and his favorite country was Brazil. He appreciated the display of the direct connections Brazil had to the continent of Africa.
Baseball provided an outlet and allowed him the opportunity to carve out a unique position in Hobbstown. His love of baseball started as a young boy playing in the driveway hitting stones. It is where he developed a sharp eye for hitting the ball. He started playing on a team at the age of 8 for coach Edmund Jones for Ethicon’s Green Knoll Little League Team with Henry Tukes, Phillip and David Miller, and Nearo Williams Jr. He played the positions of 1st baseman and pitcher. Chet played semi-pro baseball with the Somerville Raiders for many years. At the age of 22, he got the opportunity to audition for the Baltimore Orioles and the Atlanta Braves. Although he never had the opportunity to play professionally, he was an avid follower of the sport. Later in his life he became a sought-after umpire in Pennsylvania for local schools and communities and he umpired for the Little League World Series every year until he became too ill to do so.
Chester Willams son Gibran Williams preceded him in death. He leaves behind to continue his travels on earth, two sisters, Cathleen Williams, Kimberly Scott, a nephew Cornelius Scott Jr, (Somerville) his six god children, Kofi Kinney (Paul, Atlanta, GA), Desiree (Queens, NY) , Chelsea (Rocky Mountain, NC), Queonna (San Antonio, TX) Joyce-Birdie (Miami, FL) and Eddie (Easton, PA); his cousin siblings George Wright, MaryNell Wiiliams , Lena Leatherwood, Litell Williams (Pastor Helen), Min. Lucinda Newsome (Willie), Frank Simpson, Diane Cunningham (James) a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, friends, and long-time companion, Alicia Allen.